Bipartisanship as a concept presents itself as the perfect path to compromise and the creation of laws that mesh together the wishes of two parties, even if they exist at two separate ideological poles. Through that lens, it may seem that the polarized Republican and Democratic parties should create decisions that represent a compromise; yet, this is not what occurs within our political system. The best example to represent the faults of the two-party system — and how it does not follow the ideals of bipartisanship — is the enactment and retraction of the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA, or Obamacare, was enacted with the goal of making affordable healthcare accessible to more people through means such as expanding Medicaid, a health insurance program designed for people with a limited income. Under its stipulations, health care coverage was expanded to nearly 20 million more Americans. It also served to establish protections for individuals with preexisting conditions. What is surprising is that Obamacare is highly derived from a health plan Republican governor Mitt Romney designed. However, the scope of the ACA makes the two plans very different, along with Obamacare’s added focus on Medicaid. Their main similarity also happens to be one of the most debated facets of the ACA: the personal and business mandates that state anyone who can afford health insurance is required to purchase it. Although the ACA in many ways was a blend of the ideals of both parties, debates usually saw many Republicans pushing for the repeal of the ACA. When looking at the debate surrounding the repeal of the ACA, one cannot help but wonder if the ACA would’ve lasted longer had it been brought to the national sphere by a Republican. Or perhaps if instead of viewing the issue as being either-or, it was instead seen as something to work on across party lines.
A compromise is never made up of things one wholly agrees with; instead, it is a mixture of things one wants and what one is willing to give, even if it’s something they may not wish for. The polarizing nature of the two-party system seems to stop this second phase from ever occurring. Rather than focusing on the good that expanded healthcare access would bring to each party’s base, the critical focus for opponents of the ACA was on the expanded role of government in healthcare, the race of the president who enacted it and a number of small, potentially adjustable factors. The worst part was that rather than attempting to adjust the ACA— because, like everything, it was not without fault— to better represent a compromise, it was repealed, taking with it both the bad and the good.
This system, rather than be the propeller of compromise, creates an us versus them dynamic that leaves each group feeling as though the other is constantly working against them. As such, rather than compromising, parties feel pressured to work to ensure that they gain more power at the expense of their constituents. This is what we see in politics time and time again, like in instances of gun control and healthcare, where people align with the beliefs of one party at the detriment to themselves and their larger community. It is a harmful system that creates polarization not only in politics but also throughout the entire populace. It creates systems that focus on all the irrelevant parts of a policy rather than its contents and impact — politics over the policy, even. I think this is a saddening and unproductive consequence.