That’s the number of House Republicans who voted for the stimulus bill, despite the best efforts of a Democratic president to water it down for them. Is this how we’re going to spend the next four years?
The Republicans aren’t going away and they aren’t going to change. I don’t care how many Michael Steeles they trot out to "put a new face on the party." They’re wedded to a right-wing, trickle-down ideology because 1) their base demands it 2) it’s lucrative and 3) its simplemindedness makes it a powerful campaign tool--in the right circumstances.
This is not a good year to be a Republican, yet Barack Obama insists on giving them credibility. (If he really thinks the GOP is brimming with good ideas, we’re in big trouble.) On substantive terms, getting more Republican votes than are absolutely necessary is going to make virtually all legislation worse than it need be. That’s just a fact. So the only justification for pandering to them has to be that it’s part of a long-term political strategy.
Does Obama believe that spending quality time with John Boehner is going to pave the way for a grand, bipartisan compromise on health care or anything else? That doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Maybe he thinks "going the extra mile" will make the GOP look obstructionist and strengthen his hand with the public. That might happen, but he’d better not be counting on Wolf Blitzer and company to hammer home the message. At Think Progress, they’re complaining about continued Republican dominance of the cable news guest list. Duh! What do they expect? Barack Obama has made bipartisanship the lodestar of his presidency. (As if the corporate media needs any more incentive than it already has to prop up Republicans!)
Then there’s the noxious influence of David Axelrod, Obama’s uber-Rove. His job in the White House is to prepare for 2012. Here’s how I see his political calculus:
"I’d rather not have to re-invent the wheel. We won with a feel-good campaign in 2008, and my client has a nice-guy image worth its weight in votes. So--where do we stand today? For the foreseeable future, elections will be won or lost on the economy. But here’s the thing–to a great extent, this recession will end when it ends. We might be able to ameliorate its awfulness, but how much credit will we get? What’s the difference between 9% unemployment and 8.5% unemployment? Barack is still going to get hammered. Is it worth it to fight for better policies at the risk of alienating our friends in the media? They’re so touchy when it comes to their precious bipartisanship. Isn't half a loaf better in the long run? After all, the world will still need Barack in 2013."
Does Obama see it like this? Who knows. But he certainly hasn’t embraced the James Carville strategy–which I endorse--of throwing your drowning opponent an anvil.
It’s going to take a long time to clean up the mess in this country. Politics needs to be about something. Democrats need to set the terms of the debate. They need to be clear about their solutions while attempting–respectfully–to highlight an unbroken line of Republican failure stretching from Hoover to Reagan to Bush to Boehner. They need to discredit–respectfully–the GOP and its policies the way the right-wing discredited the New Deal. (Leave the vicious, partisan name-calling to the blogosphere. I’m more than happy to do my part!)
Of course, presidents may have their own priorities. That’s why Obama needs to be pressured.