When outgoing GOP Senator Richard Lugar lost his primary election to Richard Mourdock earlier this year, there was an unusual amount of disingenuous garment rending over the supposed death of bipartisanship due to the increasingly conservative nature of the Republican Party.
Yet there will be no sad songs for outgoing Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. While the media was focused on the dwindling of moderate Republicans, they missed the fact that pro-life Democrats and moderate Democrats virtually disappeared completely. Yet Shuler’s retirement from Congress is notable in that he was the last remaining Democrat willing to challenge Nancy Pelosi. And his defeat at the hands of my-way-or-the-highway liberalism should have been a far bigger story—if the media’s concerns were at all honest—than the defeat of an eighty-year-old officeholder.
Politico reports that on his way out the door, Shuler shows actual concern for bipartisanship:
“I was hoping I’d see more of the ‘We are America’ team. What I’ve seen instead is divisiveness. It’s an us vs. them mentality, Democrat vs. Republican, liberals vs. conservatives. And I would really have liked to [have] seen more of an ‘about America’ mind-set,’” he said. “So often up here, I feel like a kindergarten teacher separating two children from fighting over crayons. It’s because the maturity level is on that level sometimes.”
Shuler’s remedy to get over the bickering: Make members live in Washington, eat dinner together and spend more time getting to know one another.
Since Pelosi and President Obama famously dislike even talking to Republicans, and since Harry Reid has chosen to bring Senate business to a halt rather than let Republicans take part in the democratic process, that’s probably not going to happen. Nor is it likely that the media will mourn a dissenting Democratic voice, which they generally view as a nuisance.
But Shuler’s quiet retirement is a good opportunity for conservatives to realize that if they thought the Pelosi-Reid Democrats were hostile to working with them when Shuler and Joe Lieberman were still in office, they’ve probably only witnessed the beginning of the Democrats’ relentless partisanship.