GOPers can be bipartisan on a dime

One category of candidate identities speaks to leadership styles. Some want a “tough” leader. Others want a “listener” or a candidate with “common sense.” A style of leadership that almost always tests positively in polls is the candidate who “seeks bipartisan solutions.” The fact that poll after poll confirms the appeal of bipartisanship does nothing to persuade the ideologues of either party, however. For them, bipartisanship is a sellout. This sentiment has been particularly evident in the healthcare debate. To reinforce President Barack Obama’s instincts to ram through a healthcare package, Republicans be damned, some Democrat and public pollsters have tried to devalue bipartisanship. Consider this question asked by New York Times pollsters:

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“Which do you think should be a higher priority right now for Barack Obama — working in a bipartisan way with the Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign?”

In response to this false choice, the majority naturally wanted the president to keep his promises. But wasn’t one of the president’s promises that he would work in a bipartisan way? So isn’t the “sticking to the policies” option still embracing bipartisanship? But Democrats, like many Republicans, insist on going it alone. And they’re never going to win over the critical middle of the electorate by ignoring the widespread sentiment for bipartisan solutions.

Of course, there are issues that won’t allow Republicans and Democrats to act in a bipartisan manner. Republicans cannot endorse Democrat healthcare plans that are inordinately expensive for taxpayers, disrupt existing healthcare relationships and expand government’s powers over individual liberties.

That would reflect too much compromise of core party values. But where there are opportunities, and the costs are not too high, why not try and grab a little bipartisan mojo? Are we too ideologically rigid to fashion a bipartisan strategy that goes after the swing vote?

There are two ripe opportunities these days for Republicans to go bipartisan without breaking the bank. By endorsing the continuation of the manned spaceflight program, Republicans can find common ground to work with Democrats. And by advocating for approval of federally funded high-speed rail in their states and regions, Republicans can finally join Democrats to say “YES!” to a federal initiative.

In the case of space, the cost is affordable and realistically represents maintenance of the budgetary status quo. And as the space advocates at www.savespace.us remind us, the space program is all about economic development, jobs and development of profitable new technologies. If it helps make Republicans feel better about this, it could also be mentioned that maintenance of our nation’s leadership in space exploration has significant national security implications.

High-speed rail funding is part of the stimulus plan and is going to happen. The only remaining question is whether your state gets the dough or it goes elsewhere. Republicans in shovel-ready states like Florida and California, states advanced in high-speed rail planning, ought to be intertwined with their

Democratic colleagues, pushing in tandem for their states to get this money. Rail means jobs and development opportunities for Republican business owners and operators.

Space and rail are outstanding opportunities for Republican bipartisan action. They’re affordable. They are forward-looking. And they point America in new directions at a new pace — up and fast.

Hill is a member of the research faculty at Auburn University and has been a Republican pollster since 1984.