The Cycle of Partisanship

Under The Hood


It’s been a little more than a year since Harvard professor Noah Feldman spoke in Sarasota about the cycle of bipartisanship. A guest of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, he shared stories of his days as a Supreme Court clerk, wandering over to Congress to watch the impeachment of Bill Clinton play out during the last great era of hyperpartisanship in America.

Feldman assured the audience, though, that this too shall pass. The founding fathers built in the “technology” of democracy that both sides must come together to effectively govern. But in an interview with SRQ, I asked him about the timing.

“I don’t expect it in the next two and a half years,” he said.

Now, America sits again in the midst of an impeachment imbroglio, with a partisan divide that makes the Clinton years feel like a pool party. And as much demand exists in spheres of intelligencia, the bloodlust on both sides seems to, for lack of a better word, trump all.

You can see it in the response of Florida officials. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, pre-emptively decried impeachment while engaging in what-about-ism over a disagreement he had as Governor with President Barack Obama. Few saw the connection to President Donald Trump withholding military aid while asking the Ukraine for a personally politically motivated “favor.” But at least the talking point was original.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R- said he had more questions than answers, fretted over Democrats cheapening the impeachment process, then sold bumper stickers that announce Florida stands with Trump.

Meanwhile, nearly every incumbent Democrat in the House lined up in favor of impeachment, just as most Republicans spoke out against it. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, called impeachment a “crass political stunt,” though a statement carefully avoided the possibility there may be some merit. U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, meanwhile sent a fundraising appeal declaring “the President has done nothing wrong.”

It’s understable, though, from a political perspective. Trump regularly polls in the 90-percent-plus range with GOP voters. For other Republican elected, that means standing with him or risking either a primary challenge or a broken base in a general election.

Indeed, Margaret Good, the Democratic challenger for Buchanan, suffered the most withering criticism this week for not holding the party line. Democratic voters are as eager for impeachment as Republicans are opposed. Yet Good labeled the current impeachment investigation as “gamesmanship.” “Part of this narrative now seems to be that no matter who is in the White House, the other party will try to impeach,” she said.

She’s running, apparently, in hopes that technology Feldman once spoke of will kick in soon, and that Democrats will have to work with Republicans to achieve anything, assuming anyone in Washington has visionary goals they still want to pursue. The dreaming would seem noble if the timing weren’t so foolish.

Sadly, the direction of impeachment now seems almost set in stone. Trump’s offense, while abhorrent, selfish and typically gangster-like, doesn’t quite seem blatant enough for Republican House or Senate members to risk setting a dangerous precedent, certainly not while their party controls the White House. Democrats probably have enough votes to impeach anyway. But precisely because of the bitter partisanship driving impeachment, a supermajority vote to remove Trump from office will never take place in the Senate.

Rather, this affair seems just to showcase the worst in us. One wonders at this point how quickly, should Trump shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, Republicans fundraise off the threatening history of the victim. But know, Democrats will have articles of impeachment ready before Trump steps foot on the street.

Meanwhile, we’ll all just wait for the gears of democracy to bring us together again. It can’t happen soon enough.

Jacob Ogles is senior contributing editor of SRQ Media Group.

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan: Noah Feldman in Sarasota.

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