The man who killed bipartisanship

Newt Gingrich


Sounds like a great concept.

At one time, it actually existed in the halls of power in Washington.

Bipartisanship helped President Ronald Reagan get his tax cuts through a reluctant, Democratic-controlled Congress in 1981.

In those days, the Republican Party — in the minority in Congress just like it is today — was led by GOP leader Robert Michel of Illinois, a Congressman who believed that building coalitions was the best way to serve the best interests of a nation.

But even as Michel managed to advance Republican causes in a Democratic-held Congress, an angry movement was forming in the GOP, led by Georgia firebrand Next Gingrich, who believed confrontation and bitter obstructionist tactics best served the agenda of the party.

I worked on Capitol Hill as a press secretary, chief of staff and committee staffer for Republican Congressmen from 1981-87 and watched Gingrich’s rise from obscurity to the architect of the demise of congeniality and bi-partisanship in the House.

Gingrich challenged Michel’s coalition-building and bipartisan style as “weak” and began building a leadership base. His efforts paid off in 1994 when his “Contract With America” struck a chord with voters and gave Republicans control of Congress.

But Gingrich is a liar and hypocrite who — like so many politicians — said many things in the election season and immediately forgot all campaign promises as soon as the polls closed.

The Contract With America promised term-limits. Gingrich and the GOP abandoned that idea right after the election.

He promised an end to “Christmas Tree legislation” where amendments that had nothing to do with an original bill were tacked on as gifts to gain votes. As Speaker of the House in 1995, Gingrich presided over a Congress that passed record spending bills packed with Congressional pork.

Gingrich openly skewered President Bill Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. At the same time he was screwing a Congressional committee staff member and would later dump his wife to marry his paramour.

When Gingrich took control of the GOP, bi-partisanship and coalition-building died. When he became Speaker of the House he turned that legislative body into a bitterly-divided partisan snake pit.

Gingrich’s legacy lives on today in a Congress frozen in partisan gridlocked, incapable of building coalitions, generating meaningful legislation or serving the needs of America.

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  1. MightyMo

    Let’s be more specific, the parties are made up exclusively by American citizens who we elect. In other words, we killed bipartisanship, and more than likely we killed bipartisanship because of only a few issues that predominate the interests of the two sides.

  2. Warren

    While I agree that Gingrich was the ringleader of the end of bipartisan cooperation, it goes deeper than that. Gingrich may have been the ringleader but most of the rest of our legislature was eager to follow.

    The real change was one of priorities. Used to be that being elected to national office forced a changing of priorities. During the election the prospective legislator would be concerned with 1) the success of his party, 2) the well-being of his state or district, and 3) the well-being of the U.S.

    Upon being elected those priorities would reverse. The top priority would be the well-being of the U.S., followed by the well-being of his state or district, followed by the well-being of his party.

    That’s the way it was, or seemed to be, pre-Gingrich. Post Gingrich we don’t see the priority reversal on being elected. Legislators continue to be partisans foremost, putting the well-being of the U.S. as a whole last.


  3. Warren

    So why are the priorities in office what they are? While books could be filled with contributing factors, I suspect the major one is the dumbing-down of our media. Reasoned debate is boring. Eyes close and heads nod. But, bring on some good old partisan mud-slinging 10-second soundbites and the eyes open. Yup, us-versus-them contests attract open eyeballs, especially when the action happens in 10-second plays. Call it TV football mentality.

    Corporations pay for commercials that pay for the news that we see, whether on TV or the internet, or even in the paper. Corporations want open eyeballs to see their commercials. Us-versus-them contests keep the eyeballs open. Politicians want eyeballs to see THEM, especially winning a contest. QED.


  4. Thomas Bonsell

    Good God, are we ever going to get past this nonsense that Ronald Reagan had to contend with a Democrat-controlled Congress. That is not true.

    Reagan went into office with a Republican Senate (Howard Baker was majority leader for four years, Bob Dole for two; the period in which Reagan did the most damage to this country). While Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House during the disastrous Reagan run, the House was mostly conservative. Democrats went by the seniority system in awarding committee chairmanships and Southern right-wingers (many now Republicans, if God hasn’t called them home), held most positions of power.

    Calling Newt Gingrich a liar and hypocrite is a good observation.

  5. MightyMo

    This is going back to the “early” days of my involvement in politics, but I firmly believe that Gingrich, like many other conservatives of his era, were the first to place so much emphasis on religion, and the incorporation of religion into American political decisions.
    I think Reagan was the first to so openly bring religion into the public view of his decision making. I have often heard that Roe vs Wade and the religious outcry against it, was the catalyst.
    Utah, one of the most conservative states of the Union was always Democrat prior to the 70’s. Democrats historicaly stood for what was best for people, while Republicans were always pro business.
    With Reagan that began to change to Republicans being viewed as business, and more importantly, supporters of the Religious right, of course we now know that they only support the Religious Right when necessary.
    That view of one side being supporters and the other side as not has only increased over the years, and the decisiveness of Religion has manifested itself into tearing the government and the country into an “us and them” affair.
    I personally believe that until we have some issue of overriding importance that unifies this nation with one cause, the tearing of the nation because of religion will only worsen.

  6. Kent.Shaw

    “I think Reagan was the first to so openly bring religion into the public view of his decision making.”

    And astrology.

  7. almandine

    Last I heard, anyone could just “sign up” for either political party, or not, depending on his/her personal desires.

    Maybe this shows part of the problem… a widespread basic misunderstanding of the American political system.

  8. griff

    If there were no parties, then maybe we would actually have real polical debate about real issues, and choose our representatives based on substance rather than hype and propaganda.

  9. Kent.Shaw

    That’s it! Would someone here please nominate me to become a member of one of the parties? I don’t care which one. I’ve always wanted to be elected to one of the parties. When is the party-member election? Is there a primary first? Do we get to debate on national television?

  10. MightyMo

    Ya Ya, I get it. So I chose inadequate wording. Point was, we only really have two parties that we can choose between to represent everything that we all wish for. Sure there are other party’s, but we rarely ever seem to give them true consideration, even though it’s clear we should.
    Between the two predominant elected parties, there are numerous important issues that float towards the middle, but it’s the few issues that are furthest apart that seem to dominate the interests of the electorate and the elected, and why we elect who we do.
    My true point, although I didn’t say it, was that I think we’d all be much better off if we got past this narrow Liberal / Conservative viewpoint and started to look at what is simply best for the Nation. Now more than ever I think generally speaking, what is good for the Nation is also good for all of us.
    But as I vaguely hinted to in my first post, we simply don’t want to elect anyone who doesn’t represent our key philosophies first and foremost, then we get pissed with government because they don’t fix the other problems in our immediate world which are actually more important. Maybe placing less importance on key philosophies and more on the broader spectrum is something to consider.
    I personally liked the Ross Perot method. He got us past Liberalism and Conservatism, and focused on the economy. He did it by catching our attention with an unorthodox method of making us realize that there were more important issues that affected us, and he did it by using flip charts and a pointer.
    Strangely, through the 2000’s the US financial status has only succeeded in getting about 4 times worse than it was in 1992, yet we never again gave any serious thought to US finances, the debt clock, or responsible spending until way too late in the ball game. Now our interests are unified about jobs, deficit spending, and healthcare, but it’s all for not because it’s too late. Surprisingly, Liberalism and Conservatism are still such strong philosophies that they preclude getting anything constructive accomplished for any of us.

  11. almandine

    I get your drift, but I’m not sure what you mean by the Liberal/Conservative viewpoint. What do liberals and conservatives stand for? And by that I mean what does each philosophy want for our country? Are there differences? Are they real? Where would they lead if ultimately successful? Why should anyone pick either, or is there something better… and why?

  12. Carl Nemo

    Thanks Almandine for supplying a link concerning the Greenspan-Guidotti rule concerning national bankruptcy.

    I’ve been aware of the rule and the thought of national bankruptcy has been proposed on CHB & RR for some time.

    Quite possibly it could turn out to be a good thing for the citizens of the U.S. and the world in general since we are the largest of all national solvency failures on the horizon.

    I’m posting a Wiki link concerning “national bankruptcy” along with a sublink concerning the survivors of such and their newly ensconced government in place repudiating “odious debt”.


    The politically entrenched ‘borrowers’ have committed a hostile act against the people, they cannot expect a nation which has freed itself of a despotic regime to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler…extract from Wiki

    Fascinating indeed and the concept of outright repudiation makes sense too in terms of a summary solution.

    Since we seemingly are now under the control of serial “hostile regimes” that no longer do the bidding of the people nor act to promote the general welfare or to run a sound balanced budget, then I believe his theorem will hold valid when sh*t hits the fan in two years or less. It seems more things than geological disasters are headed our way. Fatcat bankers and their running dogs in Congress, State houses etc. can easily be shuffled aside relative to their demands; ie, those that have the guns make the rules. A new ruling body would be foolish to placate bankers as opposed to appeasing a hostile, post revolutionary populace.

    When the loan is made to the small borrower the bank controls the outcome, but when loans of astronomical proportions are in question the borrower controls the banker; ie., they would be grateful to be repaid in pennies on the dollar or if it all if their very lives are at stake.

    Banks, bankers and the entire world paradigm of such practices are in for a rude day of reckoning when they get stiffed by their mega-borrowers; ie., nations themselves. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  13. Kent.Shaw

    Fractional reserve banking has been a fraud from the get-go. Banks lend money they do not have. If I write you a check and I don’t have the funds to cover it I have committed a crime. For banks, then, crime is standard operating procedure. Creation of the Federal Reserve as well as other “central banks” are the fraud of the millenia.

  14. almandine

    Hey Carl –

    Thanks for the links. “Repudiation” is a lovely term and highly appropriate in instances such as this. If only the populace understood… which may in case be coming around. The latest Rasmussen poll indicates that 75% of Americans are angry with govt. This link below is a “timeline” eye opener that I’ve been waiting for, i.e., when to expect the collapse.(You’ll have to supply the www, as the spam filter has decided again that I’m a risk.)

    There are links embedded within that one which offer more insight.

    Thus, any repudiation may be preceded by the other “R” word.

    Cheers… and don’t forget to stock up.

  15. DejaVuAllOver

    This is just one more facet of the breakdown of our society, mores and the west in general. It could easily be compared to the re-writing (never upwardly) of the rules of war that has been going on for at least 100 years. In ww1, the concept of civilian casualties (HUGE ones at that) became acceptable, in ww2, nuking an entire city was acceptable, under Reagan fighting wars didn’t even require congressional approval (the CIA was all ya’ needed) and now all three are openly discussed…. and against people that have not even done us ANY harm! “Pre-emptive” war.

    If ya’ wanna blame someone for the breakdown of political ethics, we have met the enemy and He Is Us.