If ‘bipartisanship’ is now a dirty word, how about a rebranding?

In April, the media company Gannett announced it was spinning off its publishing business and would run its broadcasting and digital units under the new corporate name “Tegna.”

{mosads}Not to be outdone, in June the Tribune Publishing Company — which Gannett was trying to acquire — renamed itself “Tronc,” which it declared stood for “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

Some said it was the worse new name ever, giving Gannett at least a temporary victory in no longer having the worst name change.

Putting aside the acoustics of those names, one can peer at the larger underlying motivation: A name change was thought to help jettison old images and give a fresh start to the entities.

Fair enough. Embracing that philosophy, it is clearly time to rename “bipartisanship” since the current, old name just is not cutting it any more, let alone producing the result desired by voters.

Indeed, a fresh start is the very least that is needed.

It was such a rush, just over one year ago, when the bespoken words of political leaders last spring hinted at being the seeds sown for a new growth of bipartisanship. As I noted in The Hill last August:

[W]hen House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on the CBS news show “60 Minutes” and said fixing the infrastructure was a roadway to bipartisan action, they grasped history. Good roads not only move Americans; they reelect politicians.

That would be the first foray down a new road of bipartisanship, they hinted.

Alas, the harsh winter of political rhetoric killed that tender shoot looking for the sun of bipartisanship, finding instead a void of harshness. Boehner has been dispatched by members of his own party. McConnell has vowed not to let any Supreme Court nominee of President Obama even see the light of a committee hearing room, among other things.

And the bipartisanship they promised to support to repair highways and bridges seems to have been thrown off the bridge with the cement once dreamed for roads now serving as overshoes on cooperation.

Maybe it should be renamed “Tarzan-ship,” to get the animals in line?

Starry-eyed by the early rhetoric, groups such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARBTA) pushed members and others involved in transportation construction to voice support for a permanent solution for supporting the Highway Trust Fund to be part of tax reform proposals coming from the House Ways and Means Committee. ARBTA and others even provided lists of crucial projects needing immediate repairs that spanned congressional districts, seemingly a good way to encourage bipartisanship.

It made no difference. Bipartisanship, like the roads that were to be fixed, continued to crumble away.

Would “TarotCard-ship” give some astrological cover to working together? Could “Tiramisu-ship” be tasty enough for Democrats and Republicans to savor together?

Bipartisanship has become a word that is used as a weapon on Capitol, a Neanderthalic relic used as a club by the more advanced Cro-Magnon of today.

Yet — as it was last year — bipartisanship is vibrant next door in Maryland, where it has helped political figures actually improve their standing with constituents.

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, whose name appeared on some GOP vice presidential lists early in the presidential season, has worked with Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot on a handful of select issues, some that had been stalled until they teamed up and others that were completely new.

They started working together after the election that brought Hogan to power — but before he even took office — on small business initiatives. They have continued on a variety of focused targets, most recently working to secure state money for portable air conditioning units in schools.

Here is a more interesting twist: In Maryland, Hogan and Franchot use the word bipartisanship as a positive sword, to jab their political foes.

After Hogan-Franchot struck back against their air conditioning opponents in May, by blocking $15 million in state school construction and renovation aid from Baltimore County and Baltimore City, the Democratic-controlled legislature voted to reduce the number of public school maintenance inspections.

Franchot quickly proclaimed how “Governor Hogan and I stand in bipartisan opposition to the ill-conceived plan.”

Bipartisan opposition. Mind-boggling.

If headlines do not merit attention by Capitol Hill, perhaps poll numbers will.

In polling reported by Lunchtime Politics, Hogan easily bests all Democrats who may challenge him for reelection in 2018, including former Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley by 14 percentage points and U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez by 24 points.

Hogan also has the second highest approval rating among state politicians, just slightly behind retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski. He has the lowest disapproval rate.

Franchot’s numbers are less clear, impacted in part because his office collects tax revenues and there are voter complaints of sloppy mathematics as well as negative chatter because some of his staff engaged in antics against opponents on Facebook.

Granted, both men have a certain freedom to act in a bipartisan manner. Franchot is not seeking the governorship (at least at the moment); Hogan is at the top of his political opportunities. For them, bipartisanship has been a winning choice.

So, members of the House and Senate: Do you wish to again be shown up by a state or do you want to try bipartisanship again?

We can call it “Termlimit-ship.”

Squitieri is an award-winning reporter and communications veteran and an adjunct professor at American University and Washington and Jefferson College.


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