The way parliamentary parties maintain their discipline is straightforward. No candidate can run for office using the party label unless the party bestows that label upon him or her. And usually, the party itself and not the candidate raises and controls all the campaign funds. As every political scientist knows, the fact that in the U.S. any candidate can pick his or her own party label without needing anyone else's approval, and can also raise his or her own campaign funds, is why there cannot be and never really has been any sustained party discipline before -- even though it is a feature of parliamentary systems.
The GOP now maintains party discipline by the equivalent of a parliamentary party's tools: The GOP can effectively deny a candidate the party label (by running a more conservative GOP candidate against him or her), and the GOP can also provide the needed funds to the candidate of the party's choice. And every GOP member of Congress knows it. (Snowe and Collins may be immune, but that's about it.)
I've missed almost all the punditry this past week... but what I've seen seems almost like a lot of misleading fluff designed to fill the void that should follow an understanding of the foregoing, at least on the subject of 'why no bipartisanship?' There's really nothing more to be said about "why no bipartisanship," once one recognizes the GOP party discipline. On this issue, it's absolutely astounding to blame Obama or even the Congressional leadership (although Pelosi and Reid leave much to be desired otherwise). It's doubly astounding that the GOP did it once before, less perfectly, but with a very large reward for bad behavior in the form of the 1994 mid-term elections. Yet no one calls them on it effectively, and bad behavior seems about to be rewarded again. [emphasis in original]
Well, I think there's some blame to go around to Obama et al. The radio silence that greeted the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts (and the fact of that win, to begin with) while the Democrats in Congress ran for the hills was hardly the bold leadership I was hoping for.
That being said, I think the President spoke for a lot of us when he let the incredulity creep into his voice as he addressed the Republicans during the SOTU. (I did not see his address to the House GOP caucus, for the record.) I mean, really, GOP? You're going to filibuster everything?
So, of course what the country really needs right now is a GOP "purity test," watered down or otherwise. Because more rigid party-line voting is just what the doctor ordered.
I really, really hope one day we get rid of the filibuster. We can learn to live without it when we're in the minority, and it's being wielded irresponsibly to the detriment of our country.