Some news about the presidential debates from Politico, as reported by Dylan Byers:
Philips Electronics has dropped its sponsorship of the 2012 presidential debates, citing a desire not to associate itself with bipartisanship, POLITICO has learned.
That lede might cause many readers to do a double-take. If bipartisanship is conventionally understood to mean "cooperation between the two major political parties," why would Philips be opposed to such cooperation? If they don't favor bipartisanship, doesn't that mean they favor partisanship instead? But no: in this case, bipartisanship is actually the equivalent of partisanship, which are both in opposition to nonpartisanship.
The negative (partisan) implication of bipartisanship becomes clear from the rest of the Politico story:
Philips is the third and by far the largest of the original ten sponsors to pull its support, following similar decisions by British advertising firm BBH New York and the YWCA over the last week. Their decision to do so is seen as the result of intense lobbying efforts by advocacy organizations — primarily Libertarian supporters of former Gov. Gary Johnson — who oppose the exclusion of third-party candidates and who therefore believe the Commission on Presidential Debates is an anti-Democratic institution.
Mark A. Stephenson, the head of corporate communications at Philips North America, told POLITICO that the company doesn't want to provide "even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics."
Philips "has a long and proud heritage of being non-partisan in the many countries it serves around the world. While the Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan organization, their work may appear to support bi-partisan politics," Stephenson said in a written statement. "We respect all points of view and, as a result, want to ensure that Philips doesn’t provide even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics. As such, no company funds have been or will be used to support the Commission on Presidential Debates."
So if you're a third-party candidate like Gary Johnson (or a supporter of third-party candidates' rights to participate in debates), then bipartisanship takes on a negative valence, on the partisan end of the partisan/nonpartisan spectrum. Context is everything.
Update, 8:00 pm ET: Politico has already changed the lede to read:
Philips Electronics has dropped its sponsorship of the 2012 presidential debates, citing a desire not to associate itself with "partisan politics," POLITICO has learned.