Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Response to the Elections: The Pending Acrimony Tsunami

I spent the better part of a subway ride trying to come up with a joke to post to my Facebook page in response to the elections, and this was the best I came up with:
Rather than "The Tea Party" they should have called themselves the "Coffee Klatsch," because it seems to me that the whole movement is Chock Full o' Nuts.
Yes, that fully explains why Jon Stewart won't return my calls, but the truth of the matter is that in the high-profile races across the country most of the nuttiest of Tea Party candidates lost (O'Donnell, Paladino, Angle, Whitman).

But then where does this leave those of us not inclined to vote for Republicans? The President made a statement yesterday that suggests he appreciates the weight of the message the nation's voters sent him and the Democrats. He offered the required post-drubbing commitment to work with the opposition, but the question remains which of the opposition's bi-polar approaches will emerge as their true agenda to try to work with?

The New York Times sums up that to-be-answered question nicely with the following examples:

In the kind of opposition Ms. [Sarah] Palin represents, issues aren’t always meant to be addressed through governance, but rather to be deployed as blunt instruments in pursuit of more electoral gains. For the new Republican-led House, that would mean more questions about the president’s birth certificate, more subpoenas flowing down Pennsylvania Avenue, more votes on abortion and flag burning and all of that.

And it might mean passing a bill on gun rights or school prayer that excites the base, knowing full well that the Democratic-controlled Senate will simply let it die anyway.

Mr. [Paul] Ryan, of Wisconsin, on the other hand, is the author of a radically austere plan to scale back federal spending, and he is about to become chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Ryan, a Washington insider, is heir to the side of the conservative movement that grew out of think tanks and policy journals in the 1960s and ’70s.

To Mr. Ryan’s way of thinking, liberals in government aren’t cultural imperialists; in fact, he gets along with them just fine. Rather, Mr. Ryan sees the president and his allies as hopelessly misguided, reliant on unsustainable government spending rather than the market. Mr. Ryan’s kind of opposition would offer up an alternative, polarizing agenda, forcing President Obama and his allies to defend their philosophy and their intransigence.

Of course, an intellectual (rather than a cultural) debate is what you have to believe the founding fathers imagined Congress would spend its time having (and why they designed the government more as a game of tug of war than a 40-yard dash). But many pundits are seeing the sort of obstruction-as-policy we've had for the past two years as merely a dress rehearsal for what's to come. Indeed, it seems that the Republicans' only winning the House has set the stage for the kind of acrimony in government that I'm assuming most Americans had truly hoped their votes would bring to an end. But, as Charles Krauthammer cynically noted before the election:
If you're Republican, I think it works rather well in terms of strategy for ‘12. You really didn't want control of the two houses because then Obama could do a Truman where he ran against the do-nothing Congress and ran for re-election. If you put too much of the actual official power in the hands of the Republicans, it makes them responsible. Right now, I think they're in perfect position tactically. Control the House, object, propose stuff that Obama may veto and run on that against him in 2012. [emphasis mine]
Heaven knows, the constituents never intended their elected officials to actually be responsible while in office. They elected them solely so they could waste the next two years playing politics on our dime.

In fact, though, if they were paying attention, the electorate should have known exactly what they were voting for. Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell came right out and said that his top priority was seeing that President Obama was "a one-term president." Not helping Americans keep their homes, not helping Americans find jobs, not even stopping the terrorists or the illegal immigrants. No, the top priority on the GOP agenda is doing whatever they can to ensure the President is not re-elected.

Typical Washington rhetoric? Sure. But also a clear indication that the new Congress will not very likely accomplish much more toward alleviating the hardship that helped put them in office than their predecessors we able to. Does that mean another Dem sweep in 2012? Can the GOP win again on acrimony and obstruction alone? Or would they have to actually, you know, help people over the next two years to get re-elected?

In a way, I hope the Tea Party stays angry and very vocal. I hope they hold the new Congress' feat to the flames, and continue disrupting town meetings and marching on Washington, demanding a government that's working for the people. Yes, I know, who they see as "the people" and who I see as "the people" aren't exactly in sync. But despite the Sarah Palin's and Glenn Beck's out there milking the acrimony for every gold coin they can horde away, I still believe in a government elected by the people. I believe it slowly wobbles back and forth, but always overall keeps moving forward. As Andrew Sullivan noted, for example, it was a great election for gays:
Those pro-marriage justices in Iowa may have lost their jobs, but more openly gay and lesbian candidates won office last night than in any other year in American history. If that happens in this kind of wave election, even in Kentucky, things have changed deeply.
And so it continues...a step forward, a step back, another step forward and on and on. I don't look forward to the acrimony tsunami about to hit, but I don't despair for the nation either. Our government is designed to be this messy...it's the only way to ensure that there's balance to the progress and that's we move forward in a way that is considerate of all opinions as much as possible. And, so, forward we go....

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree on dodging a bullet of crazy politicians. Here are some names you might want to familiarize yourself with, our "Crazy Caucus":

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/the-crazy-class-of-2010-meet-the-new-gop-stars.php?ref=fpa

---ondine nyc

11/04/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

John Berger wrote a while back to the effect that:


we can move forward or backwards.
there are only two directions,
not two positions.


(sorry I cant find the poem to quote)

11/05/2010 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger LG said...

I'm so glad you mentioned McConnell's comments. I feel the same way as you do. GOP agenda > what's best for all Americans.

I believe that the gay community is being more and more accepted as we get further along. It's slow but it's happening. As more professionals go public with their sexual identity, others see that they are just normal folks and the anti-gay folks are made to look ridiculous. In 20 years, their will be gay marriage, openly gay folks in the military, etc. and people will think it's been that way "for a while" as we do now with mixed race marriages and civil rights.

Slow and steady wins the race. Let's hope with such a mixed Congress that we will see some compromise once the swagger gets old.

Good post.

11/05/2010 09:23:00 AM  

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