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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Is this bye-bye to bipartisanship?

Is bipartisanship sinking?

Is bipartisanship sinking? Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus/wildpixel

Get the crash cart. This organism known as "bipartisan spirit" shows no pulse.

In deep-blue New York, sincere Democrats face a dilemma. They may oppose all gerrymandering in the ongoing redistricting of congressional seats. But as Republicans in red states manipulate their lines to help win back control of the House, a question arises.

Wouldn’t it be the equivalent of surrender, or unilateral disarmament, if Democrats who rule Albany pass up the chance to minimize GOP candidates’ chances upstate and on Long Island?

Never has there been as much outside partisan pressure on House lines.

Under the bipartisan model built into the state's independent redistricting commission, as on election boards, Republican and Democratic expedience are supposed to offset each other. The panel comes into play, however, with Democrats controlling two-thirds of both legislative chambers and the governorship.

In Washington, President Joe Biden's early signals of a new bipartisanship are proving optimistic. That's because the partisan split is pencil-thin in the House and razor-thin in the Senate, giving Republicans more incentive to frustrate the majority.

Dug-in GOP resistance on infrastructure bills, the debt ceiling and budget priorities has become customary. But it may mark a new level in noncooperation if Republicans refuse proposed new limits on the powers of the executive branch — especially when the president is from the opposing party.

Specifically, House leaders are expected this fall to propose cracking down on the potential for corruption in presidential pardons, strengthening the Hatch Act against federal employees politicking on the job, barring presidents from taking outside money, and keeping a departing incumbent from stalling a transition.

Will Republicans fight these logical reforms merely because they may make their last nominee, Donald Trump, look bad in retrospect? Big bipartisan reforms followed the Vietnam War and Watergate, events that also reflected poorly on Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the two previous presidents.

If Republicans remain hellbent on blocking all initiatives by the Democratic majorities and the White House, the more militant Democrats now in power might find no moral or pragmatic rationale to keep filibuster rules as they are, or keep the debt-ceiling dance, or even leave the Supreme Court at nine members.

The New York City mayor’s race — if it can be called that given Democrat Eric Adams’ enormous edge over Republican Curtis Sliwa — shows the evaporation of a GOP presence in the city. Republican mayors dominated City Hall for 20 years until eight years ago because they essentially ran as reconstituted Democrats.

Don’t expect to see that again soon.

Nobody is claiming that past collaboration between parties always led to good government. Some will point to wasteful taxing and spending measures, and bad war decisions, that resulted from convenient horse-trading and calls for "national unity."

Given the deep alienations of our two-party "system," it may be a good time to remember that neither party's existence is written into the Constitution, nor should it be.

Over the long haul, parties have died or reassembled. Free Soilers, Know Nothings, Federalists, Populists, Progressives and Whigs have come and gone.

There were Democratic Republicans in the 19th century. And over time, the more durable parties change dynamically from within along with demographics and events.

For all we know the nation's current party duopoly won't last another decade, let alone another century. The question is what new coalitions form and how, which goes beyond the immediate dealings of the elected.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.