I watched the inauguration on TV while doing chores around my place, and caught most of his address. Most of what he said he hoped to accomplish included a swipe against positions the Republicans have taken, like arguing that the dangers of climate change are just one more liberal over reaction. Obama’s response: No more Mr. Nice Guy. No hands reaching across the aisle, but a fist.
I think at the beginning of that first term, Obama actually hoped and tried to develop some bi-partisan proposals, but when Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stated that his foremost goal over the next four years was to make Barack Obama a one term president, he meant it. Of course, that did not stop the Republicans from berating Obama’s failure to reduce polarization. This reminds me of a friend’s suggested way of handling an unwanted guest: “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”
I have never seen it explicitly stated, but the plunge into recession just as Obama was taking office made any kind of real cooperation virtually impossible, because the two parties had contrary approaches to deal with the crisis. The Democrats believed that since business was not spending, government needed to in order to boost the economy, hence the stimulus package. Meanwhile, the Republicans…..well I’ll stop here, because I do not see a clear line between Republican rhetoric that blamed Obama for everything and an actual belief that tightening the budget would help us out of the recession. There are conservative and/or libertarian economists that argue for austerity as the way to go, but this is a tricky business that I will explore at a later time.
The point here is that when two people, or two parties, reach a fork in the road, there is no room for compromise. One either takes one fork or the other, and that is the situation Obama faced in his first term.
Along with a difference in basic beliefs, the Republican party was undergoing an identity crisis. The party’s combination of Neo-cons, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and libertarians (who are a unique breed of conservatives who in some cases agree with the far left) are not the sort open to compromise The moderates who used to guide the party now tend to be painted by the rest as Republican in name only (RINO’s).
The one thing that united this disparate group was a common desire to get rid of Obama. Hence, the circus clown act of unlikely presidential hopefuls who interchangeably jumped up and then fell on their faces . Romney got the nomination simply because he was the least unacceptable candidate to the most Republicans.
Well, that collective strategy failed to replace the President, and since the election the Republicans have resembled a collection of episodes of “Family Feud”. Though I don’t recall the source, I heard John Boehner say the other day: “We cannot be the party of “no,” suggesting that he finally got the point after four years. He showed what he meant when allowing votes to be taken on the mini-fiscal deal and federal aid to Hurricane Sandy victims in the House, even though a majority of his own caucus would not support them. In other words, he allowed votes he knew he was going to lose.
This is the kind of leveraged bi-partisanship we are likely to see in upcoming months, to the extent we see any. The President feels he has the upper hand and, unlike most of his adversaries, he will not worry about being reelected. If the Republicans are not going to continue being the party of “no” they will have to divorce themselves from the Tea Party crew, who do not seem capable of being reasoned with. This should be interesting to see.
The prospects of a Republican party in shambles probably makes most liberals feel a bit giddy, but I believe in the need for checks and balances in all relationships, personal and professional as well as in government and between the two parties, so I would prefer seeing Republican moderates reclaim the soul of that party and become an active force to help get things done again.
I think Governor Chris Christie might be able to lead them in that direction. Or maybe I just like the fact he answers reporters’ questions instead of dodging or deflecting them. Can you believe it? A politician who often says what he actually thinks.