Saturday, February 14, 2009

Proof and Vindication

Much has been made of the failures of bipartisanship in Washington, and News analysts have made a point of questioning the wisdom of Obama's approach. But was it ever his failure to begin with? The Republicans don't seem to have changed their politics to suit their new even more minor minority status. They're behaving little different than they did before the 2008 elections, when their party had been kicked out to the doghouse, and little different than they did before the 2006 elections.

There are times when staying the same is a decisive act, and nobody can say that being obstructive in these times, with their minorities is not decisive. At least not in terms of behavior. But decisive in character isn't necessary decisive in effect, at least as desired. For a country that believes something else must be done than what we have been doing, the definitive statement made by enduring obstruction is not exactly reassuring, and the fearmongering doesn't help.

The Republicans dig in their heels, obviously, to avoid looking like they've lost the battle, to look at least like they're fighting the coming wave of liberalism. For many conservative voters, this might be a heartening development, but for the interests of the Republicans and their voters, it's not. The Republicans are faced with a situation in which moderates are becoming more and more alienated from their party. It doesn't help that the party enforces its discipline even at its member's political expense. If they primary their moderates, the likelihood has grown that they will end up with moderates again in the offices, but this time with a "D" by their name.

The right has surrendered the moderate middle, and now defends it's radical flank at all costs. Do they fear that if they give up that, they'll be even more irrelevant? Could be. But long term, the tension of the pull towards the Right is tearing the Republicans away from those who could support their return.

What they might be counting on is riding to the rescue after Obama fails, blaming him for a worsening economy. Could work, to be honest. That sliver of hope may be what drives Republicans. I also wouldn't dismiss the notion that the Republicans are so ingrained with their philosophy, that they have trouble seeing the stimulus as anything else than a potential failure. In which case, of course, they see no alternative to opposing it, if they want to do the right thing.

So be it. That seems to be the Republican's plan. The trick to all this, though, is that it's been their plan for the last eight years and has not worked yet. Even if the Stimulus doesn't work as planned, Obama's both lowered expectations for instant and spectacular success, and seems to be willing to go further than just this initiative in changing the economic situation. This won't be the last time Americans see Obama working long hours on their behalf.

Just speaking from a coldbloodedly political standpoint, the Republicans should recall that this was the exact same approach they took in the thirties, and that even recently, President Clinton made the Republicans look petty when they tried to impose their agenda after their seizure of the majority in 1994. They should recall that their obstructionism on the war cost them the majority in 2006, and even more in 2008 after the economic collapse, and their stunt against the TARP legislation wasn't that politically helpful to them either.

If you're not a Republican or a fellow traveller, it's not going to look much different now than it has, even if the Republicans are right. And the indications are that they aren't. The Republicans are making it very difficult for people to believe that they've learned their lessons.

It's unlikely people have forgotten enough about the past few years that what they do now will seem unconnected to what they did before. It's also probably unlikely that the Republican's ardent, partisan hostility towards liberalism has been forgotten either. There is a clear, logical explanation for the Republicans actions, true or not, that indicates less than selfless, partisan motivations for their actions.

And lets not forget: Obama won on people's hostility to that.

Even if the Republicans are right, the manner in which they are conducting their political manuevers is not helpful to their cause or their reputations. Unfortunately, the Republicans have made a point of only considering their own people, their own fellow travellers as reliable sources. The rest of America is asking, perhaps not without sympathy, "How do we get through to these people?"

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