Republicans Embrace Obstructionism
By Alexander Hurst '12
There are two parts to politics: first, there is talking and maneuvering, posturing and positioning; then there is actually doing. Recently the Democrats seem to have found their voices again. Obama can give a speech, we all know that, and for the most part, his State of the Union was spot on in saying what needed to be said. He called out Republican obstructionism, at times vented populist anger and reiterated his commitment to the sweeping change he promised and was elected to deliver.

The Republican responses to his State of the Union were telling. Even when the President highlighted accomplishments that are traditionally thought of as centerpieces of Republican policy (such as tax cuts, which the Obama administration and Democrats delivered to 95 percent of working people), they remained stoic and silent in their seats. Obama even vocalized his surprise at their lack of positive response, remarking that he thought he was sure to get applause for that.

He shouldn’t have been surprised. Nothing the Republican Party has done during his first year in office has even remotely suggested that they are at all interested in helping the President govern. Some prominent Republicans have openly remarked that they want Obama to fail — nearly all have echoed this sentiment through their actions as senators and representatives.

With a lack of leadership from the White House, the Republicans have succeeded in compromising and stalling the Democrats’ signature health care bill without giving anything in return. And so I was disappointed when Obama seemed to make the same mistake in his speech. He voiced support for health care reform, but essentially left the issue to Congress by neglecting to put forward anything specific and to draw any line around core values from which he will not stray.

However, if his upcoming (and to be televised!) meeting with congressional Republicans (unless they back out, which after the thrashing meted out last week, would not surprise me) regarding health care is anything like his trip into the lion’s den last week, then perhaps there is hope. Obama stared the Party of No in the face and said, “Yes I will answer your questions and your talking points, and I will do it on live television.” It was the kind of frank, transparent and politely combative moment that Americans need to see more of from their politicians.

The Republican narrative since the start of summer has been wildly successful among their own base, and the President finally began to take them head on. As it stands, a Research 2000 poll released last week of self-identified Republicans found that 36 percent still do not believe the President was born in the United States; 63 percent believe that he is a socialist; 24 percent believe that he “wants the terrorists to win”; 53 percent believe that Sarah Palin is more qualified than he to be president; 31 percent believe that he is a racist; 23 percent believe their state should secede from the union.

That’s not a base for whom compromise is desirable, and any Republican running for reelection knows that unless they want to find themselves like Dede Scozzafava facing a tough tea-bag primary challenge, working with this President is not an option.

Yet fortune may have thrown the Democrats a bone this week, with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s introduction of the Republican budget plan. Unlike their budget plan from earlier this summer, this one actually contains numbers, and not just vague Venn diagrams. Like the Republican budget plan from the summer, it is also incredibly stupid politically. It essentially calls for the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans (the largest single contributor to the massive increase in national debt under Bush, and the current deficits) at the expense of privatizing Social Security and Medicare, while finally balancing the budget in 2080 … “Really, all that pain and no gain until 2080!” This from a party that merely months ago was wailing about how the Democrats wanted to pull the plug on grandma for targeted cuts at Medicare inefficiencies.

With this bill, the Democrats must do what they should have been doing all along: force votes. Voting is the political equivalent of put up or shut up, and it’s time for the Republicans to either show their true colors, or shut the hell up. Any Republican who casts a vote in favor of privatizing Social Security and Medicare is sure to reap electoral wrath in November, and if Republicans vote down their own budget plan, it clears the way for Democrats to push through theirs uncontested.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 01:48:57