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Edward Flattau Headshot

Pyrrhic Victory

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For a Republican Party that has openly admitted its strategy is based on obstructionism, a congressional victory in November could well be a pyrrhic one.

Since President Obama has been in office, Capitol Hill Republicans have refused to compromise with him on environmental protection initiatives or virtually any other issues of substance. The GOP game plan has been to purposely let official Washington flounder, with proposed Administration programs left to languish in limbo.

An unprecedented record of congressional non-performance has resulted from this obstructionism. Republican legislators pass rigidly drawn bills and offer uncompromising amendments they know will go nowhere. Yet they are confident Obama will receive the bulk of the blame for bureaucratic inertia and give them a leg up in the upcoming elections.

The conspicuous absence of the lifeblood of democracy -- compromise -- doesn't seem to bother GOP lawmakers. Besides, they view their stonewalling a statement of ideological purity that will ingratiate them with their base.

But here's the thing. If the Republicans should recapture the Senate and retain the House in November, they would still have two more years of Obama. It is highly unlikely they would win enough seats to override the president's veto or the remaining Senate Democrats' filibusters.

Victory thus would leave Republican politicians in a bind. Either they would have to alienate their hard core base by reverting to compromise out of necessity to govern. Or to keep their ideological followers in tow, they would have to continue a hard line likely to perpetuate the federal government dysfunction that ultimately is not a winning proposition. It would be harder to blame the Obama Administration for governmental paralysis, especially if the President offered to compromise, as he has done in the past. [Republican lawmakers already appear to have miscalculated the blame game since their favorability rating is far below that of the president's.)

GOP leaders don't seem fazed by the potential looming political booby trap. They are too busy accusing Obama of incompetence and lack of character in an attempt to delegitimize his presidency.

Whether their visceral personal attacks are motivated by Obama's policies or the pigmentation of his skin is anybody's guess. What is clear is that Republicans are convinced that victory hinges on sidetracking whatever Obama proposes.

That being the case, Obama has focused on legal ways to circumvent Congress, thereby infuriating the Republicans.

What did they expect? If Obama wanted to see any of his agenda realized, he had no choice but to exercise his legal unilateral authority through executive orders.

This presidential prerogative has received no respect from the modern day GOP. Typical were Republican lawmakers pillorying Obama after he exercised his duly prescribed authority to expand the Central Pacific Marine Preserve originally established by President George W. Bush. House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings sounded a familiar GOP refrain, labeling Obama "the Imperial President". Indignation was muted in Republican ranks, however, when Bush displayed the same autonomy six years earlier.

It is an inconsistency that does not go unnoticed.