This Is What True Bipartisanship Looks Like (It's Bad)

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Consider these two interesting tidbits from a Washington Post article on Medicaid expansion in Virginia, published on Tuesday:

Democrats determined to expand Medicaid cooked up a plan to flip a Republican in Virginia’s closely divided state Senate. They’d take one of Sen. William M. Stanley Jr.’s bills, aimed at reviving a shuttered hospital in his struggling rural district, and hold it hostage until the Republican got on board.

But one Democrat, a longtime friend of Stanley’s, was so bothered by the hardball tactic that he tipped him off and then persuaded fellow Democrats to approve the bill. To top it off, Stanley’s pal whisked him from Richmond to the North Carolina border, and there, on grounds of defunct Patrick County Hospital, signed the Republican’s bill into law.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is a pretty good guy, it seems, to have for a friend.

“Here he was — first week as governor — comforting me, and saying, ‘Buddy, don’t worry. I’m with ya, I’m with ya,’ ” Stanley said. “He didn’t have to spend that kind of political capital. . . . So I love the guy.”

Virginia Democrats, locked in a long-running battle over Medicaid expansion, identify a solid bargaining chip. Their governor, Ralph Northam, sells them out because he is mates with the bill’s sponsor, and you don’t touch my friends, buddy, hit me if you like, but don’t EVER touch my friends, okay?

This is how politics used to be, right? Glasses of expensive whiskey shared with your equally old and white friends of the opposite party, hashing out your differences and gosh damnit, getting things done.


How does that approach work these days? Well, (all emphasis mine):

Friendships might take Northam only so far. Consider Stanley, perhaps the governor’s best pal in the Senate, who has led opposition to Medicaid expansion for the past four years, convinced that the federal government would not keep its promise to pick up 90 percent of the $2 billion-a-year tab. His view has not changed simply because Northam is leading the charge now.

Late last week, Northam said he would resort to hardball if need be: If the legislature sends him a budget without expansion, he will add it as amendment — a procedure that gives him a stronger hand in the Senate.

In an odd twist, it is the Senate — traditionally the more moderate chamber, and the place where Northam’s personal ties are strongest — that stands in his way, not the House.


Oh. How weird! And it gets worse:

After Democrats killed his bill, Stanley filed an identical measure. As Northam was trying to persuade Democrats to pass that one, Stanley agreed to keep an open mind about Medicaid. Soon after, Northam dispatched his health secretary and Medicaid chief to Stanley’s office. They made their pitch, but also picked his brain: What would a Republican plan for Medicaid expansion look like, they asked, even if he could not support it? He talked about work requirements, which wound up in the House plan.


So Governor Northam does a big favor for his mate William, and in return William advocates for Medicaid work requirements, which happen to end up in the House plan. The Senate has not voted for Medicaid expansion. That issue must be reconciled by Saturday.

Imagine you want Medicaid expansion, because you believe it would benefit the people of your state, and, because you are either callous or desperate, you are willing to accept including work requirements as a way to get that done. Would this have been worth it? Would Northam’s bipartisan deal with his buddy have worked?


Apparently not. “I fully expect him to be talking to other people. I think he knows, though, I can’t vote for the House budget,” said William M. Stanley, a great personal friend to the Democratic Governor. The concession that Stanley wanted, which will render the Medicaid plan a cruel joke, goes into the bill, and he still can’t support it.

There is a message here for Democratic politicians, especially Northam but all of them, really: However nice and funny and personally charming you might think Republicans are, they are not your friends. They are, quite literally, your opponents. They do not want the same things as you. They are not trying to help the poor get healthcare or “find solutions” to gun violence. Those are things they tell people they want, because those things are popular, while creating legislation that will make all those things harder or impossible. They have been doing this for a long time.


William Stanley, your pal, does not care if poor people end up dead or in impossible debt because they had no health insurance. He literally told you he opposes Medicaid expansion out of “principle.” That principle is diametrically opposed to what yours is supposed to be, as a Democrat. Maybe you think he’s a real hoot and great to play golf with, but your job is to beat him at politics. You can send him an Edible Arrangement afterwards if you like.