Welcome to Gridlockville - Obama, the Republicans & the 112th Congress
That Democrats suffered what, in President Obama’s summation, amounted to a telling “shellacking” during the just concluded mid-term elections, is an incontrovertible fact of our current political reality.
Since Republicans picked up approximately 60 new seats and assumed control of the House of Representatives, the all-important position of Speaker, its accompanying gavel and dazzling trappings of authority will sooner be transferred from Nancy Pelosi to John Boehner.
Republicans also recorded victories in enough senatorial contests to narrow Democratic lead in the Senate from near filibuster-proof highs of the first half of Obama’s first term to the dicier 53-47 ratio we’ll see in January.
While some have blamed Democratic losses on the legislative agenda of the Obama administration, the fact that it was not as laser-focused on economic stimulation and job creation as they would like, others took solace in the conviction that the armada that the Obama camp painstakingly assembled in young voters, independents and minority voters in 2008 chose to stay home because they felt that he simply did not go far enough in single-mindedly pursuing a thoroughly progressive schema.
Then there were those conservatives who, in resplendent ideological terms, chose to see it as a clear repudiation of everything Obama---from healthcare reform, the stimulus package, to financial industry reform.
Given the inherently zero-some character of politics nowadays, it is extremely difficult to see why it would be in Republican interest to truly partner with Obama in pursuit of plausible solutions to the major problems that ail this country.
Why would Boehner and Mitch McConnell now shun the baleful, obstructionist ways that at least in part, masterfully stoked the flames of fear and division that ultimately produced the electoral victories of the last few weeks for anything else?
To the contrary, evidence abound that we would see no less than the intensification of the same tactics. The interest in a repeat victory in 2012 supersedes or transcends any coherent, reasoned programmatic effort to nurse the American economy to health.
Didn’t McConnell capture it so poignantly when he shamelessly declared the GOP’s most foremost desire as ensuring that Obama is a one-term president?
Didn’t Boehner later underscore the same theme with amazing incredulity when while reacting to the Republican ascendancy in the House, he stridently declared “this is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles. To the extent the president wants to work with us, in terms of our goals, we‘d welcome his involvement?"
Republicans understand that a good faith negotiation with Obama that results in any legislative success projects well for him but tarnishes the GOP's overriding 2012 White House aspirations.
Little wonder therefore that earlier this week, in what minimally appeared to be in appalling taste, McConnell, Boehner and other Republican Congressional Leaders rejected President Obama’s invitation for some dialogue on an agreeable way forward regarding the plethora of issues that await the 112th Congress.
Fact is that since the elections, Republican Leaders have not veered from known staples of conservative orthodoxy. It has been fitful posturing and ideological gamesmanship through and through.
They claimed that American voters loudly and roundly denounced Obama administration policies that, in their view, exacerbated already intolerable deficits; yet their position on extending and/or permanentizing Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which promises to add another trillion dollars to the same deficits they routinely rail against, has grown increasingly indefensible.
They said it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs; yet nothing till date has been unveiled that remotely resembles a lucid, bold plan for bringing these to fruition. Puzzlingly, Republican leaders seem content focusing on grandstanding around symbolic ideas like de-funding the National Public Radio and ending earmarks whose triviality in the overall scheme of things is quite obvious and frankly infuriating.
With Democratic super majority control of both chambers of Congress now lost, Obama is faced with the enormously insurmountable task of finding ingenuous ways to work with the inchoate, rambling and persnickety Republican and Tea Party coalition that has not only repeatedly shown zero interest in collaborative governance but is actually sworn to his political ruin.
Everyone knows that Republicans simply do not have the votes to pull off such outlandish designs like repealing the healthcare reform act; the Senate is still in Democratic control. Besides, Obama still have the impenetrable power of veto.
Nonetheless, it’s certainly my hope that the President and Democratic Congressional Leaders truly appreciate the grimness of this situation. They should know that unless an effort is made to fully exploit the opportunity that the current lame duck session provides to push through key legislative initiatives, while they still have the gavel, Republicans are making it known that they are hell bent on turning Washington into Gridlockville come January.