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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

An obituary for bipartisanship in Washington

Depressing as it may be, it's worth considering the words of two veterans of the U.S. Senate:

"One difficulty in making the Senate work the way it was intended is that America's electorate is increasingly divided into red and blue states, with lawmakers representing just one color or the other. ... The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support. In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future." That's from outgoing U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

"Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives." That's from outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana.

Lugar's overwhelming defeat in last week's Indiana primary prompted another round of hand-wringing about the death of bipartisanship and moderation in Congress.

Truth is, Republican Hoosiers had perfectly valid reasons for retiring the elder statesman at age 80 after six terms: He ran a lousy campaign, he essentially gave up his Indiana residency for Washington in the 1970s and lost touch with his constituents. And can you really blame Republicans in a conservative state for choosing a credible, more conservative alternative, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, to their current senator?

At the same time, Lugar's demise is a chilling reminder of what will be in store only weeks after November's election: a country facing a mountain of critical issues — another debt ceiling debate and the prospect of huge automatic spending cuts and tax increases, and perhaps tens of millions of Americans without health insurance if the Supreme Court decimates the health care overhaul — and a Congress that every day looks evermore incapable of dealing with them.

Full column here

[Last modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 5:27pm]

    

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