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.

4 thoughts on “Should We Reward Obstructionism?

  1. Surely you’re joking! The country is “better off now than it was when Obama was handed the keys in 2008” (actually he took office in 2009 but we’ll let that detail pass).?
    Let’s see: unemployment has just now climbed back to where it was (actually it’l probably worse because the increase in numbers is due to the “normal” seasonal bump in part-time work AND the DOL has lowered the number of people “in the workforce” (kinda curious how the population can increase and the number of workers decline but … ). Any increase in jobs is in the service and public sectors not in manufacturing. Fuel prices are roughly double. The national debt has skyrocketed thanks largely to Obama/Pelosi’s completely ineffective “stimulous” package. We’ve been subjected to almost constant demonization of successful people (aka: the “rich”). The USA is no longer respected around the world and is subject to attack with impunity (isn’t it interesting that it seems everyone EXCEPT the Obama administration knew the Libya was a terrorist attack?). If Obama was “schooled” in his first term, perhaps it demonstrates that, never having run a business or held an executive position, he WASN’T ready for the job. I know that James E. Carter is really happy with Obama because now President Carter no longer looks like a complete loser.

    As to BHO’s integrity, I will give but one example: In (I think) June of 2007, then candidate wannabe Obmama was addressing a predominantly black audience at Hampton University in Hampton, VA. Using characteristic inflections of blacks, he stated that the Congress would not waive the Stafford Act to rebuild New Orleans, even though they did waive it for FL after Hurricane Andrew and New Your after 9/11. His clear implication (and he in fact stated) that “they” don’t care about NO because of it’s largely black population (and by inference all blacks). Two weeks prior to this speech, the Senate DID waive the Stafford Act for NO with a vote of 84 -14. One of the 14 senators who voted AGAINST waiver was Senator Barrack Obama. What he told those people was an absolute, unadulterated, flat-out, bald-faced LIE and he KNEW it was a lie when he told it. There’s integrity for you.

    Governor Romney’s position on health care is that what was (possibly) right for MA (not CT) may not be right for other states (e.g. WY).

    Romney’s release of his tax records will simply show that he took advantage of the tax laws and that he’s a rich guy. I can pretty well guarantee that there’s nothing in them or the IRS would be beating down his doors. Why won’t BHO release his college transcripts? I find that considerably more troubling. I interpreted Romney’s comment about the 47% to mean that he doesn’t need to try to get them to vote for him; after all, the government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.

    For the last two years the GOP has been pretty effective in slowing BHO’s determined march into Marxist/fascism or whatever government he’s trying to create but for two years the Dems had complete control of both houses and the presidency and he still couldn’t get it done because he’s got no leadership ability.

    Unwillingness to compromise is a shared problem. The image of BHO sitting at the table with a group of Republicans during the Obamacare fiasco comes to mind: “John,” Obama said to Sen. McCain, “the election’s over. I won.” That pretty well set the tone. Why would anyone choose to compromise with someone who comes to the table with that kind of attitude? If BHO is re-elected (which I truly hope does not happen) he’d better change his approach. President Clinton was much more “flexible” than BHO and even with both houses being held by Republicans passed some significant legislation. I think the GOP is willing to compromise but Pelosi/Reed are such twits that they are willing to wait and hope to gain control of both houses.

    FWIW, I do not consider myself to be a Republican or a Democrat. I am an AMERICAN. I support the constitution and I believe that government has gotten too intrusive in everyone’s lives.

  2. I stand by my premise that the economy is better now than it was in 2008, before Obama took office, and better than it was in 2009 after he took office. Looking at numbers out of context does not always tell the full story. In 2008/early-2009 the economy was in freefall; economists from most camps tend to agree that we were in a serious recession and that a full-on depression was not at all unlikely. Now? No, the economy is not soaring like it was when George W was handed the keys by Clinton (and I do agree that Clinton had better political skills than does Obama), but for the last couple of years the economy has nonetheless been edging upward. I do not want to see a reversion to trickle-down economics (which are a joke, to my eye), nor do I want to strip away business regulations that strive to keep people from doing bad things. Remember that it was the incomprehensible and uncontrolled rise of Mortgage-backed Securities (also called Collateralized Debt Obligations) that was a primary reason that the U.S. housing market crashed big-time, leading the careen into our current economic mess. Call it intrusion if you will, but I’m all for intrusion of the type that might discourage Wall Street from playing with everyone else’s money, at little to no risk to their own. Or measures that limit the dumping of toxins into the water we drink and the air we breathe.

    And no, I do not demonize the wealthy—many of them in fact deserve to be compensated handsomely for their efforts. But I think that we should not forget that there would be no such thing as wealth without a functioning economy, and I see no problem with the wealthy paying back into an economy that permitted their wealth in the first place. It’s not like those people wouldn’t still be wealthy, for crying out loud; in fact some of them, like billionaire Warren Buffet, themselves call for higher taxes on the wealthy. I do not espouse handing such increased revenue out to lazy laggards who don’t want to work, welfare queens, and the like, but rather we could use it to put people back to work rebuilding a national infrastructure that is in dire need of help, and we could make it easier for people to retrain themselves for higher-tech work in a changing world. A strong back and a lower grade education with no technical training is often inadequate these days—there are LOTS of high tech openings in the USA today that go begging for qualified applicants.

    Call increased taxation on the wealthy ‘redistribution’, or ‘socialism’, or ‘communism’, if you will. I choose to call it ‘common sense’.

  3. Actually in Colorado election day was lots of fun. And for me, one word decesibrs the 2010 campaign: practice. The real battle for the heart and soul of our country began at 7:01 PM Tuesday when the voting ended for the midterms. 2010 was alive fire training exercise. We can now set our sights on President Obama’s re-election , the fight I found myself looking forward to during a long and often frustrating campaign season. While the election may have been a judgement on the Democratic Congress I think it is also important to see it in context of the effect of Citizens United and the ability of huge expenditure conservative black ops like Rove’s Cross Roads groups and the US Chamber to use negative advertising from secret sources to fan voters fears. These groups spent more in Colorado than any other state. But here they largely lost. We elected a new Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper who didn’t run one attack ad. The Colorado Senate remains in Democratic control and the Colorado House will also, depending on the outcome of one of two as yet undecided races.Our US Senate race may point the way to how things can work here and elsewhere in 2012 for progressive candidates and the President. Michael Bennet kept the race close until election day. In most polls he was even with his opponent with registered voters but down a few points with likely voters, the enthusiasm gap. That’s where the Democrat’s field effort came in. In 2008 the Obama campaign made Colorado one of the top battlegrounds in the country, pouring hundreds of trained organizers into the state. Here in conservative El Paso County, “the Belly of the Beast”, those organizers recruited 2400 volunteers. I was involved from the start but by election day I’d walk through rooms of volunteers and recognize nary a face. It was great. In 2010 the Bennet campaign used a much smaller staff to tap into that volunteer base. Many of these volunteers had never made political phone calls or knocked on doors prior to 2008. In 2010 we did not have the numbers of volunteers we had in 08 but the group we had was ready to go. Some had become involved in the local Democratic Party or local campaigns over the last two years. Some had not been involved at all but when called upon they came out, phoned and knocked doors in the end. According to the Denver Post direct voter contact made the difference in a Senate race where the margin was less than 1%. This is the legacy of Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy and the amazing organizing efforts of the Obama campaign. If the President’s re-election campaign can tap into these volunteers using the same organizing efforts as in 2008 it may again be the difference. The good news is these volunteers will still be here in 2012, more ready to go than ever.

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