Right now, House and Senate Republicans are doing Barack Obama a huge favor. The Congress is setting up the places for the Stimulus Luau, and as much as it pains me as a Democrat to say it, our folks are doing their best to make pork the main course.
I know it just makes all of y'all in the Dem side of the Congress positively giddy that Obama has such huge coattails. After years of having all of those nifty programs that you've wanted to fund scotched over and over again by the GOP, you are just chafing at the bit to get some of that work done.
What better way, then, to speed that process along by using an omnibus federal spending package?
Come on, people. Millions for an anti-smoking campaign and a dozen more highly off-the-wall projects?
While you will seldom find me agreeing with the Republicans about much, they have a point here.
The reason that we don't have one party rule is because the Founding Fathers were pretty smart fellas who realized that the pull from Left and Right keeps the country roughly moving down the middle of the political highway.
The system breaks down when you have an isolated Executive, as was the case with the W. Administration, which did not cry foul when either party moved to excess.
The easiest thing and the hardest thing to do at the same time as a president is to be able to police your own partisans. You are their leader, but at the same time you need their good will, or, in the case of Bush, their extreme fear of reprisals by the Republican Party hierarchy, to be able to govern.
Obama's centrist approach has been textbook brilliant. Many have criticized his outreach to the Republicans, and pointed at the polarized vote in the House on the Stimulus package as an example of its failure.
From his standpoint, though, it was a huge success.
Obama has nothing to lose by talking to the Republicans. For Republicans who seek a safe haven for their policy out from under the Neo Con whip, they have nothing to lose either.
Republican detente serves two purposes for Obama:
- It is a win-win in statesmanship. If the Republicans vote with you, it shows that you were able to persuade them. If they vote against you, particularly on a stimulus bill in this economy, it looks far more like they are sticking their necks out for partisan purposes, marginalizing the more extreme members of the tax-breaks stimulus brakers in the G.O.P. as hindering the healing of the economy that they had a very large hand in tanking.
Even the more reasonable members of the GOP who enjoy winning re-election know that, with the country teetering around the edge of the economic bowl, something big must be done. They can nitpick around the edges of this bill, but Republicans who do want to hold their jobs don't want to stop the plan, just look like they "changed" it substantially enough to keep what the fictional "Gov" William J. Lepetomaine of "Blazing Saddles" once called "Their phony baloney jobs..."
They don't like the public being reminded that it was GOP stalwart Phil Graham's crusade for the dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act, that was put in place after the Great Depression to protect the financial system from this kind of rapacious Republicanism, that was, in large part, the hole in the greed dam that put the economy where it is today.
The advice of Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you," has never rung truer than for a Republican in the post-Bush era. The GOP may carry on like three year olds with bad haircuts, but there are many influential fiscal conservatives wholly irate with their Republican congresspeople for having given the Neo-Cons the free reign that turned Bush into the biggest big government guy in U.S. history.
- The congressional Republicans are Obama's Rabbi. They keep pork off of the menu and keep the whole process Kosher, and more transparent.
Republicans opposing the plan are doing more to help the Obama 2012 re-election campaign than his Democratic colleagues who are trying to add all of the extra dishes of social programming to the party.
They are participating in the process the way it is supposed to work when it works. Obama could have gone after his party's partisans and told them to strip out all of the excess, but then it would deprive the opposition of their role in doing just that. One of the key aspects of successful leadership in the executive is not to dictate policy, but rather to helm the process and let it work. It is refreshing, after the five-thumb management of George W. Bush and Co., to see that government still works after eight rusty years of gridlock.
To keep the feast that this country has been enjoying for more than a century running, Obama has to strip away the worst inclinations of politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Pitting them against each other constructively, and setting the tone for civil and low-drama debate is slowly restoring the notion of our government as a place of public service, not self-service, in spite of the best inclinations of members of both political persuasions to keep the status quo.
Are there going to be unpaid tax bills and a few appointees whose records in private service may stink like six day old fish?
Restarting the economy means first restarting proper governance. Obama is doing that, with leadership that is healing a system that has been broken for decades. Being partisan, we like to think it is the other guys who are the problem.
Democrats and Republicans alike are to blame for making the mess over thirty years, and we are going to have to work together, in spite of our general differences of perception, to clean it up.
Dems are going to have to wait for the proper time to bring many of these programs up before committees and debate them.
You don't bring tobacco to a luau anymore.
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