The Democratic View: Bipartisanship


I read with great interest my Republican counterpart’s column on bipartisanship last week, in which he touted gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro as the real deal. Indeed, if you look at Mr. Molinaro’s website or read his speeches, you would be hard-pressed to tell which party he represents.
When I hear the word “bipartisan” lately, I’m always forced to contemplate our current congressman, Tom Reed, who chairs the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group whose sole stated purpose is to put forth bipartisan solutions. Mr. Reed apparently performs this role without irony, despite voting with the president 96.5 percent of the time and labeling any of his own constituents who disagree with him “extreme liberals.” The Problem Solvers haven’t gotten very far with their proposals, many of which involve instituting procedures in the House that may harm the ability of any majority, whether Republican or Democratic, to get things done.

I would be happy to believe that Marc Molinaro is on my side, so I’ve been digging past the blandness of his website. He voted against increasing the number of charter schools; I approve. He voted for a moratorium on fracking—but he saw it as a pause, not a cessation, and recently seems a bit irritated that New York has now missed the boat. He doesn’t take money from the NRA, but he voted against a bill that would have barred domestic violence offenders from owning guns. He sees Roe v. Wade as “settled law,” but he does not want the state to codify it into state law.

Does that make him bipartisan? Or is he just another Republican walking the narrow tightrope that typifies running for office as a red guy in a blue state? Given the current atmosphere, is it even possible to be bipartisan?

As I write, we have just lived through several hours of confusion over whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has quit, been fired, or is just attending a meeting. We are living through an ugly confirmation hearing for a judge who would be the fifth Justice of nine to be wholly controlled by the Federalist Society and who was, it appears, a serial abuser of women in his youth.

“Bipartisan” Tom Reed has called for the Mueller probe to end. He was, of course, “disappointed to see extremists” protesting at the opening of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. I am sure Mr. Reed is sorry not to have a vote on the judge he feels “elicits all the ideals of a spectacular Supreme Court Justice.”

The fact is that we are very far apart. Not only is there a real rift between red and blue, but there is also an alarming divide between men and women, between people of color and the dwindling white majority. I appreciate those who hope to heal these wounds, but right now, their remedies aren’t working.
I feel sorry for certain Republicans I know who are not rabid right-wingers, but I’m not sorry in the least for those who stay silent. If you are not condemning this administration’s hideous immigration policy, its attacks on the media, its gutting of environmental protections, its authoritarian tactics, its careless racism, its unbridled corruption, its attempt to ram through a dangerously flawed judicial candidate—if you’re not speaking up, you are not on my side. This is no time to walk a tightrope. It’s time to dive into the fray and speak your mind.

Is it possible to be bipartisan? Certainly, there are areas where we can find common ground. As my Republican counterpart noted, most of us believe in independent redistricting, transparency, and holding our representatives to a higher standard. I’d even add that most of us are in favor of 21st-century jobs and schools and that when pressed, most of us admire the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

I look forward to a time when we can stop refighting the culture wars, agree on the dangers of climate change, and accept the world’s shifting demographics with hope rather than dread. If I see Republicans stepping up to fight their leadership, I will gladly applaud their efforts. I’ve served on boards; I’ve seen cooperation and compromise at the local level. I would like to believe that we are not as ferociously at odds as my Twitter feed tells me we are. I hope it’s not too late.

Have you registered to vote? If you’ve moved since you voted last, you need to re-register. If you want to change parties and vote in primaries next year, you need to re-register. Your deadline is Friday, Oct. 12. Register online or at the Board of Elections, 128 E. Buffalo Street, Ithaca.

Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at


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