Should We Reward Obstructionism?

Though not the main focus of this blog, I’ll start off by stating that I support Obama. Not so fiercely as in 2008, perhaps, but he is an intelligent man, and I believe that he is a man of integrity who is doing his best to direct this country in a positive direction. He has been schooled in the difficult dynamics of the presidency in his first term, and I believe that his second term will produce better results. And give me break, naysayers; the country is better off now than it was when Obama was handed the keys in 2008. Not everyone’s circumstances are improved, and not every economic indicator is up, but the country as a whole is in better shape. It is hard to post positive economic numbers across the board, when the starting gate was a thoroughly trashed economy.

Romney is also an intelligent man, and I truly want to believe that he is a man of integrity, but I can’t quite bring myself to trust him. It is his excessive flip-flopping that most gets to me, as well as some of his unguarded comments. If he was running on his record as Governor of Connecticut (oops, I mean Massachusetts) I would feel more at ease, but he is disavowing his once-proud accomplishment of a health care plan (that is quite like ‘ObamaCare’), insisting that his plan was good for Massachusetts but not for the country as a whole. Somehow I cannot accept the curious inference that the citizens of Massachusetts are so alien from the rest of us that their health needs are fundamentally different. There is also Romney’s refusal to release his tax records, even in the face of what was once a campaign-threatening uproar, and to me that strongly suggests that he’s hiding something. Something about his finances, and national finances are the basis of his campaign. Hmmmm. I am also very uncomfortable with his 47% remark, which he talked about at length before a group of wealthy donors and which he tries to now dismiss with a sincere look-you-in-the-eye “I didn’t mean it” confession, all while the financially-sheltered elite likely nudge and wink at each other and tell themselves that the ’lower’ class will swallow anything if enough money is thrown at it.

But this rant…. er, discourse is really more about the rabid obstructionism of the legislature in recent years, and I cannot blame that on Romney. I strongly believe that a primary reason that Obama’s first term did not result in greater success was grounded in the GOP’s decision to become ‘The Party of No’, making the GOP the ‘Grand Obstructionist Party’. Their simple strategy was to do their best to block anything and everything that the Obama administration attempted, even if they agreed with it and even had the GOP been the first to make such a proposal. Feel free to do a search on “party of no”—you’ll find no shortage of news bureaus reporting on it. Here’s one from Time Magazine that a quick search turned up:

I’d also suggest searching Fox News, but I’m not into reality shows (never was sure why they call them ‘reality’?).

So here’s my point: the GOP was pretty effective in damping any serious efforts by the Obama administration, and their driving goal was to make Obama fail and thus be replaced by their own candidate in 2012. For Obama to be able to accomplish anything of substance, like his health care plan, he had to rely entirely upon members of his own party, even those who required the plums and cherries and hand-outs that he did not agree with. And so the bill that was passed was loaded down with excessive junk that Obama would have very much preferred to not include, but was forced to accept if he wanted a health care bill. Period; no other option. Sit at your desk and twiddle your thumbs, or accept the only route that permitted forward movement, forced upon you by the Party of No. The GOP resisted Health Care in its entirety, and they will now likely claim that they did the country a favor by doing so. But do you really believe that? If some of the more centrist Republicans had elected to work with the more centrist Democrats, they could have created a health care plan with the best input from both sides (much of which had been proposed by Republicans prior), and hopefully including none of the junk that the extremist wings of either party wanted.

They could have reached a compromise, in other words.

What!? Compromise? Hasn’t that become a profane word in recent years? Mustn’t we all insist upon all-or-nothing? Isn’t sticking to your guns the most important moral issue, and a concession to work with the ‘other side’ a sign of weakness? Shouldn’t we all sign pledges that we will never raise taxes, nor work on tort reform, nor work to rein in union demands or federal pensions or whatever? Shouldn’t everything be decided upon up-front, with no possibility for deviation from a course etched in stone?

If Romney wins this election I’m hoping that much of his earlier campaign rhetoric was just a candidate ‘preaching to the choir’ in an attempt to gain the nomination in the Republican party, and that in practice he will turn out to be a reasoning man that truly does mean to do well by the entire citizenry of the United States. But what will taste very bad on my tongue will be that the GOP will have won, by using the destructive strategy of trying to block everything that the standing President attempted, whether or not they actually agreed with it and regardless of the consequences for the country.

That’s just not right. And what do you think that the displaced Democrats will then do,  seeing the effectiveness of the Republican’s obstructionist tactics? The same thing, I’d wager, and we’ll be in for another term of infighting and no compromise, and the only laws that will be passed will be those that pander to the extreme wing of one party or the other. And then a repeat in 2016, and 2020, and so on.

More important to me than which candidate wins this election is that we—the voting public—somehow force a break in the current extreme divisiveness of partisan politics. I do not believe that the politicians will do it of their own volition; they continue to fight like a pack of dogs over a bloody carcass. If such uncompromising separation continues, regardless of which party holds the presidency there will be gridlock; little will be accomplished, and that which is shoved through will be seriously slanted to one extreme or another.

And so regardless of which party you might favor (though many, myself included, seem pretty disgusted with both these days), I encourage you to also focus on the House and the Senate. Try to not be a single-issue voter, and use your vote to turn out any politicians who demonstrate an unwillingness to work across the aisle. The GOP has been the worst offender in recent years, in my opinion (led by the Majority Leader Eric Cantor, to the dismay of many of his colleagues), but the Dems have had their share as well.  Let’s insist upon public servants (that’s what they’re supposed to be, right, servants of the public?) who strongly affirm that they wish to work with their colleagues, all of them, and let’s dump those who, for the sole benefit of their own party, try to prevent any and all efforts at conciliation.

After the election and regardless of the result, I’m going to switch my voter registration to Independent, if for no other reason than to cement my resolve to vote only for those willing to work for compromise. I cannot think of a single substantive issue that everyone would agree upon, and so we must be willing to work together to forge solutions that might or might not be our personal favorites, but which are nonetheless reasonable for most everyone. I suspect that well-crafted compromises would return better results, in the long run; even better than if I always got to have it my way….

What do you think might happen if we all registered Independent? It would make the politicos nervous, I’d wager, if they no longer had such a secure pedestal to posture from.