The GOP's Enduring Obstructionism: There's No Bargaining With These Republicans
The elections are over, the celebrations and recriminations will run their courses, and soon we will return to discussions, debates and battles over policy. The fiscal cliff looms. Sequestration comes soon. We are about to hear a lot about budgets and deficits and spending cuts, but Democrats must not allow the very political and economic dynamics that played such a key role in the party's electoral rout to be forgotten or trivialized by a misplaced focus on the false political and economic narratives that should into those dynamics be subsumed. The economic recovery appears to be real, but it is still very fragile. It is not time to play 1937 again. The focus must be on creating jobs and growing the economy. Deficits must be a lower and longer term priority. Budget cuts and deficit fever do not create jobs or grow the economy.
In the latter months of 2011, the Occupy Movement changed the political and economic narrative in this country, including in Congress and by the White House. An Obama administration that had foundered during the budget and fiscal showdowns was rejuvenated as it reconnected with the Democratic Party's economic roots. By refocusing on income inequality and jobs creation, the president and Congressional Democrats were able to seize the economic narrative, both by emphasizing that the Obama stimulus had saved the economy while creating over 3 million jobs, and by drawing a clear contrast with the Republicans when attempting to pass a new jobs creating stimulus which the Republicans in Congress killed. Sometimes losing a principled legislative fight creates the opportunity for political triumph and ultimate legislative victory. But such opportunities must not be missed or such victories will be lost.
By now it should be clear to everyone that President Obama is by nature a conciliator. Every president and every presidential candidate gives lip service to the idea of working across the aisle, but when President Obama speaks it, he means it. It's part of who he is. He wants to believe the best about people, because he has the quiet confidence to believe the best about himself. He does believe that this nation is best when the sum of its disparate parts adds up to a greater whole because his entire personal history has been proof that the sum of disparate parts can become a greater whole. But the people with whom President Obama wants to work, with the best intentions for the common good, do not themselves have good intentions, either toward him or the common good.
In his passionate and sublime victory speech, after his resounding rout Tuesday night, the president said this:
And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit; reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system; freeing ourselves from foreign oil.
But Senate Minority Leader, the Republican Mitch McConnell, could not manage to be gracious even for one reconcilliatory evening:
I extend my sincere congratulations to President Obama and Vice President Biden on their hard-fought victory, and I would like to thank Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for running a great campaign based on concrete solutions to the tremendous economic challenges we continue to face. The American people did two things: they gave President Obama a second chance to fix the problems that even he admits he failed to solve during his first four years in office, and they preserved Republican control of the House of Representatives. The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.
Of course, Republican obstructionism, such as killing the jobs bill, played a key role in preventing President Obama from fully fixing the nation's problems, and it was McConnell himself who in 2010 admitted that: