More evidence beltway reporters are hopelessly out of touch

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Remember that chorus of beltway political reporters complaining that Barack Obama and the Democrats weren't "bipartisan" enough in their approach to the stimulus? Mark Halperin, for example:

HALPERIN: The other thing he could have done -- when you say, "What could he have done?" -- you can go for centrist compromises. You can say to your own party, "Sorry, some of you liberals aren't going to like it, but I'm going to change this legislation radically to get a big centrist majority rather than an all-Democratic vote." He chose not to do that. That's the exact path that George Bush took for most of his presidency with disastrous consequences for bipartisanship and solving big problems.

Here's more evidence they didn't know what they were talking about, from Glenn Greenwald, referring to a new New York Times poll:

By a 17 point-margin, Americans think it's more important that Obama "stick to his policies" than try to dilute them in order to attract Republican support in pursuit of "bipartisanship." It's not surprising that 39% want Obama to pursue bipartisanship. There are still many people who prefer Republican policies and naturally want Obama to embrace those policies in the name of "bipartisanship" -- but the group that wants that is in the clear minority. That's why Republicans lost so decisively in the last the two elections.

... a huge majority of Americans want Congressional Republicans to be "bipartisan," but don't want Obama to be. Overwhelmingly, then, Americans favor "bipartisanship" only to the extent that it means that Republicans support Democratic policies and abandon their own. [Emphasis Greenwald's]

It isn't just that Halperin & Co. were wrong about the public wanting Obama and the Democrats to compromise. What Halperin & Co. said was the exact opposite of the truth: The public wants Republicans to pitch in and help enact Democratic policies. As Greenwald notes, none of this should be surprising: the American public has overwhelmingly rejected Republican ideas in two straight elections. Or, as I put it a few weeks ago:

Sure, people want the politicians to stop bickering and get things done. But, more specifically, most people want the politicians to stop bickering and do things they want done. A single mother working two minimum-wage jobs to feed her kids might want politicians to come together in a spirit of bipartisanship -- but she doesn't want them to pass bipartisan legislation lowering the minimum wage; she wants a bipartisan bill raising the minimum wage. If she can't have that, I suspect she'd take a party-line minimum-wage increase, even if it means a decrease in the bonhomie at Washington cocktail parties she'll never attend.

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