[Ed. note: Even when Obama promised it in his 2008 stump speech?]
One of the greatest myths about American politics is that there was once a golden age of bipartisanship in which responsible, enlightened statesmen set aside partisan differences in order to collaborate with their colleagues on the other side. This understanding of history underlies constant calls for “grand bargains” among left and right on the budget and other issues. It also permits figures like Ross Perot and Michael Bloomberg to pose as practical problem-solvers superior to petty partisan politicians.
Like most historical myths, the myth of bipartisanship is a poor guide to historical understanding and contemporary action.
Yes, bipartisanship was much higher in the mid-twentieth century than it is now. A new graphic provides a striking illustration of the ideological fissioning of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.