Stop the Bipartisan Dreaming!

After 7 years in the White House, President Obama still hasn’t learned his lesson about Republicans.

Case in point: his conclusion to last night’s State of the Union address.

Looking back on his time as commander-in-chief, the president regretted that he had not done more to change our country’s broken political system.

Someone with the political “gifts” of Lincoln or FDR might have been able to do so, he said, but not him.

The idea here is that Lincoln and FDR were great presidents because they brought people together and forced them to make compromises.

In other words, President Obama thinks that Lincoln and FDR were great presidents because they were “bipartisan."

This is just flat-out wrong.

What made Lincoln and FDR great wasn’t the fact that they made compromises with their enemies; what made them great was fact that they fought their enemies and supported policies that were right, even if they made people on the other side of the aisle really, really angry.

This probably sounds a little bizarre to some people.

Bipartisanship, or at least the myth of bipartisanship, is so ingrained in our culture that many Americans forget what it really took for great Presidents to become great.

This is especially true in the case of President Lincoln.

Although his leanings were always towards compromise, the things we most remember him for -- fighting the Civil War, signing the Emancipation Proclamation, and passing the 13th Amendment -- happened when he stopped being a moderate and embraced the radicals in his Party who wanted him to become more, not less, partisan.

FDR, similarly, was the opposite of bipartisan.

He was the ultimate fighter and he kicked Republicans in the butt and took their lunch money, too.

Listening to his speeches now is actually pretty shocking.

Not only did he call Republicans out for being shills for the super-rich and the robber barons, but he also called them the enemies of the people and the enemies of democracy.

Tragically, although it's still very much true, President Barack Obama would never talk like that.

A great example of Roosevelt at the top of his game is the speech he gave on Halloween night, 1936, just three days before being elected to his second term as president.

In that speech, he promised to keep on fighting his Republican enemies and the corporate elites they fronted for, telling his New York City audience that he “welcomed their hatred".

Talking like that is the reason FDR was elected president four times, and it’s the reason why he was arguably the greatest leader in American history.

Being a great president doesn’t mean making compromises with the enemies of democracy, who have always existed in this country and this point in time just happen to control the Republican Party.

Being a great president means fighting the enemies of democracy head on, as Lincoln did when he was at his best and as FDR did the entire time he was in the White House.

The fact that President Obama doesn’t understand this is his greatest flaw, especially because today’s Republicans are as determined to undermine democracy as any faction in American history.

And that's no exaggeration: conservatives literally planned to sabotage the Obama presidency the very first day it began.

On January 20, 2009, a night when the Obamas were dancing at inaugural balls, a group of Republicans were planning the end of the Obama presidency before it even got seriously going.

At the Caucus Room restaurant right here in Washington, DC, they drew up a plan to intentionally sabotage Obama at every point possible.

On the guest list for this “invitation only” meeting were Republican Senators like Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Bob Corker.

Also in attendance were Congressmen Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy.

Over the course of four hours, this group of powerful white conservative lawmakers committed to a plan of action.

They promised each other that they would filibuster and obstruct any and all legislation supported by America's first Black President, Barack Obama.

As Mitch McConnell bragged, they would do everything possible, for as long as it took, to make his a "failed presidency.”

Newt Gingrich, who was also there at the Caucus Room, admitted to me a few years later that Republicans were actually intentionally trying to sabotage the Obama administration.

The Founding Fathers had a word for this kind of politics.

They called it sedition, and there can be no compromising with people who practice sedition.

With hundreds of millions of dollars of billionaire money at their disposal, today’s Republicans are as dangerous as any group of economic royalists in American history.

They have to be fought, not bargained with.

President Obama probably understands this better now, but he didn’t understand it for most of his presidency.

And he still apparently thinks that “bipartisanship” should be the end goal of our political system, even though it’s obvious to everyone who’s paying attention that in today’s world, compromise-first politics are a recipe for a disaster.


Johnnie Dorman's picture
Johnnie Dorman 8 years 23 weeks ago

I totally agree with Thom Hartman's assessment here. Instead of even dealing with these right wing morons, he should have gotton on his white horse and kicked their clown car riding butts for seven years. That is why I want Bernie Sanders for president, because he will do just that. Compromising with criminal traitors usually gets one nowhere.

cccccttttt 8 years 23 weeks ago

3 cheers to Tom Hartmann for shouting out that the US political parties are too

different in their views for "compromise"!

The checks and balances that were intended to stop tyrants now lead to total gridlock.

We need to examine ways to get closer to the parlimentary democracy of Europe.

Their model accomodate many divergent views yet lets the dominant party

have its way in solving national problems.

If this works poorly, the dominant party gets the boot at the next election.

We in the US, if lucky, get a schizoid national policy made up of pieces of each

party policy.


Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 23 weeks ago

It appears to be a rare beast in politics!

One who believes that he is a representative of "we the people"

Then the recogition that most of us do not recognise that politicains are there to represent "we the people"

People that know take advantage of those who don't

'Twas ever true

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 23 weeks ago

Thom, Cut Barak some slack! When the Republican congress votes 62 times to repeal your signature legislation... it's just their way of saying…Lets Compromise!!!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 23 weeks ago

#2... Sorry! I don't understand how you get the idiea that Europe has some kind of superior voting system that produces improved or magical effects for the people

Kindly explain!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 23 weeks ago

#2... what and where is Europe?

How many sovereign states are you refering to?

Or are you refering to Europe as an entity composed of independent sovereign states?

Europe as an entity has no democracy

Please Google!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

One of my pet peeves with Obama over the past seven years has been his fetish for bipartisanship. When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. But that’s what CORPORATISTS do.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 23 weeks ago

#4 So... I guess the wasp cats loved the idea of a black president enough to support everything he attempted

Does it look that way to you?

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 23 weeks ago

I'd like to expand upon what Thom regards as Obama's greatest flaw. Obama's embrace of bipartisanship is based on the belief that the citizens who voted Republican are consciously voting for the economic and social abuse their party will eventually bestow upon them. In other words, how could any intelligent individual consider compromise to be a democratic ideal when it is well know the citizens supporting the opposing party have been continuously lied to and brainwashed by 98% of the Fascist owned media.

I'm sure if you were to ask any Foxmerized citizen if they support Ryan's attack on the social safety net, they'd think you were making it all up. The cognitive dissonance caused by such powerful truth would simply cause them to tune you out. I know this to be fact, because I deal with it all the time with family and close friends

So in the end Obama is only being bipartisan with a group of Republicans owned and controlled by a relatively small number of very powerful and wealthy Fascists. His embrace of compromise only hurts the 99% of us by giving into the continuation of extreme concentration of wealth by a few out of control Caligula like maniacs.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

Reply to #9: Obama's willingness to compromise with the fascists makes him a sell-out at best; at worst, a fascist himself. Can't wait to replace him with Bernie Sanders!

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 23 weeks ago

Theodore Roosevelt was one of those great presidents that fought for what was right for the average American without compromise, although he was not an average American himself being from a wealthy family. He was a republican but a liberal republican. He deserves his spot on Mt. Rushmore. Another good republican president was Eisenhower. Desegregation and the interstate highway system began while he was president. He was our last good republican president. Roosevelt and Eisenhower would be appalled at what the modern republican party has become, a party that solicits votes from the working class, the racist, the poor, and the stupid and then side with the wealthy. Sad but true. President Obama hasn't been a bad president but he could have been a much better president, if he had not compromised and not signed any legislation with bad sections or "riders" in it like the budget that cuts disability benefits later this year for example. I'm for Bernie because he will not compromise and will do what is right. His record of senate voting proves it, for example, he voted against the budget with the part that cuts disability benefits, but Hillary's record proves otherwise. Some say he can't get elected because people don't know who he is but until Obama was nominated as a democratic presidential candidate, I didn't know who he was and he was elected president twice.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 23 weeks ago

Aliceinwonderland: Obama's push for the TPP certainly qualifys him for the Fascist label...but I think he's simply looking ahead to being accepted by, and hanging out with those who stand to gain the most from this deal....the self puffed corp pigs who can't get enough of getting more....they'll be the ones Obama will be golfing with at an exclusive country club in a year or two.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 8 years 23 weeks ago

The statement that maybe Lincoln and FDR could have done more ignores the historical conditions the previous presidents found themselves in. Roosevelt had the people behind him, giving workable suggestions for corrections in society. Obama had opposition from the beginning. He did not have the massive support that either Lincoln or FDR had. He should be recognized for what he has been able to do under these difficult political conditions. Under the present rules of rules for both the House and the Senate, Members of the parties can relax in their offices and the public never knows what they are doing. The House and Senate, time when an actual quorum is present, is minimal. Most of the negotiation is done outside the House and Senate chambers so speeches are only for political publication, not for discussion. In 1933 there was a powerful movement by people out of work, unions, and other politically active organizations pushing for positive changes. In 1861 we had actual armed aggression by one state against Federal defensive positions. After McKinley was shot, we had an active media pushing for social changes leading to the enforcement of the Sherman Anti Trust Act and the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic act. Today the media is only interested in satisfying the needs of corporatism and members of Congress are doing the same. So Democracy goes down the drain and Fascism, American style, replaces democracy.

Someone with the political “gifts” of Lincoln or FDR might have been able to do so, he said, but not him. - See more at:

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 23 weeks ago

Answering Rodney King's question from a few decades ago, no we all can't get along as long as the degree of personal wealth is the only determining factor !

robbrian's picture
robbrian 8 years 23 weeks ago

Bravo #11. Obama read the histories of both Lincoln and FDR and decided he couldn't be like them because he would lose campaign funding from the oligarchs who he would need to attack. So he crafted a middle of the road, appeasment strategy which, in the context of cutthroat republican strategies, was his road to mediocraty.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 22 weeks ago

Roosevelt and Lincoln didn't have the need for compromise like Obama does, Roosevelt had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and a large majority in the House.
Thom's right, however, trying compromise was futile, he shouldn't've yielded an inch and they wouldn't've taken so much. He should've used the media much more and called the Republicans out publicly or if he tried to compromise, fearing he would be seen as an obsessed mad man if he didn't, he should've called more attention to their unwillingness to and made them look like the obssessed crazies, which would've been a more accurate picture.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 22 weeks ago

He was just a complete Casper Milquetoast and let everybody walk on him and he didn't do a thing about it. Don't know if he was worried about being the "angry black man" or what.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 22 weeks ago

They didn't have grid-lock in Lincoln and Roosevelt's times like we do now. That's thanks to the internet.

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