I had NPR on in the car on the way in to work today; I wasn't particularly paying attention, but on the whole I got the impression that every Serious Person in America, and perhaps The World, desires nothing more from the new Congress than it demonstrate that it will do things in a Bipartisan Fashion.
Is there a single scrap of empirical evidence anywhere to indicate that this is what the American people really want? I know that people like Joe Lieberman are always moaning about how everyone is "sick of partisan bickering," but I have a feeling people are more sick of people like Joe whining all the damn time.
Looking through Polling Report, I did find this ABC/WaPo poll from last December, which asked "With control of Congress, do you think the Democrats should work mainly to carry out their agenda, or should work mainly to compromise with Bush and the Republicans?" This strikes me as rather a leading question, so it's not really a surprise that 58% said "compromise."
But what's funny about that is that when the pollsters asked these same people if they thought the Congress would be able to actually get anything done, 49% said they would not get "too much done," vs. 11% for getting "a great deal" done, 11% for getting "a lot" done, and 7% for "nothing at all." Contrast that with other polls where the question of "compromise" doesn't come up: for Pew, 59% think "the Democratic leaders will be successful in getting their programs passed into law; CBS has 49% of respondents saying they think this Congress will "accomplish" more than is typical for a "two-year period."
All the caveats of comparing different polls apply, of course. But the point is, I have at least as much evidence for claiming that "bipartisan compromise" is NOT a priority for the American people as would anyone else who would say any different.
What are people really concerned about? Iraq, of course. This is overwhelmingly seen as the nation's priority. And I don't think most Americans care about finding a "bipartisan solution" to the war. They just want it over with.
I also think it's clear from the data that when people stop and think about what "bipartisan compromise" will really accomplish in regards to Iraq, they're bright enough to see that the answer will be "nothing."