The problem with politics today is that it's less like people figuring out how to run a country and more like two rival sports teams trying to score points, complete with fans beating each other up for wearing the wrong jersey.
Patriot Act passed with wide bipartisan support. Later, since the Patriot Act was passed under Bush, it was proclaimed that Republicans were stealing our freedoms and Bush was evil and so forth, completely disregarding the bipartisan support that got it through Congress to begin with.
Patriot Act extended, passing House and Senate with bipartisan support and signed by Obama.
There have been other shorter extensions I've skipped, but suffice to say they passed, under both a Democrat controlled Congress and a Republican controlled Congress, and Bush and Obama have both signed them into law. All of the sports-style rivalry was just for the sake of the show.
Just as Democrats used the Patriot Act as a way to villify Republicans in the media, you can bet that had the Democrats struck down the law and then America got attacked, Republicans would have leaped on the chance to villify them for that.
The point is that priorty #1 these days is Scoring Points in the Media. Priority #63 would be Solving the Problem, right behind Priority #62, which is Make Sure the Refrigerator Door of the Congressional Breakroom is Closed.
A lot of this is perpetrated by the media. They love a good face off. Some guys in a room sitting down to work things out? Booooring. That's just C-SPAN. Republican vs Democrat cage matches? Exciting! Throw in some one-sided websites and even more one-sided graphics and that's entertainment! Paint Democrats like THIS and then paint Republicans like THIS and we can really get them going at it.
Apparently they think that the majority of Americans are huge suckers, easily manipulated into going at each other while the important issues slip by unnoticed in the background.
Apparently they are largely correct about this. On the web and the media, the two parties are completely at odds. Most people won't even discuss politics unless they are on the same side, because we are conditioned into believing that it's all Red Team vs Blue Team and never the two shall meet. We spend more time talking about Palin, Beck, Pelosi and Olbermann than we do talking about real issues. I heard more about Schwarzenegger fucking the maid than I heard about Obama extending the Patriot Act.
Red Team and Blue Team are doing the same stuff where it matters. They are both big spenders. They are both big DEFICIT spenders. They are both supporting the wars we are in. They both back the Patriot Act and continue to extend it. They differ on some issues, but not uniformly enough that we should be easily slapping labels around based on party affiliation.
The media fueled frenzy of Democrat vs Republican, greatest sports rivalry of all time, is doing terrible things to us, and we are eating it right up.