Like many of you, I have been following the doings of the Obama administration and the 111th United States Congress with considerable despondency.
While the ‘politics of hope’ message inspired a great many people, it’s easy to say that sort of thing when one is campaigning, but very difficult to get it done.
This is especially true, I believe, for the left-leaning end of the political spectrum, where part of the ethos is the willingness to include a variety of viewpoints, to reach compromises and generally to try to “make nice” with as many people as possible.
At this point, however, the Republican opposition has become increasingly obstructionist and stubborn, often seemingly to the point of opposing much-needed common-sense legislation for no other reason than it having been put forth by a Democrat.
But there was a filibuster-proof Senate super-majority, wasn’t there? The Dems were going to be able to cram through any measure they wanted.
Here’s the problem. A super-majority requires party unity. Party unity is hard to come by when you’re including lots of differing views under one big tent. This is especially true when among the differing views include folks such as Joe Lieberman, representing the minor and unofficial “Whatever It Takes to Benefit Joe Lieberman” party, and Ben Nelson, representing the larger but similarly unofficial “I’m Only a Democrat Because That Made Me Electable” party.
Obama himself is similarly handcuffed by this process due to the separation of powers. By the time something makes it to his desk, it’s hardly worth his time to read it.
So scratch party unity. But the message should still be compelling, yes?
The right-siders, whether Cheney or Limbaugh, Palin or Steele, have been very good at the art of the five-second soundbite. Remember the “death panels”? The “socialist agenda”?
The Republican message, starting back in the Bush years, has been one of fear. Be afraid that the terrorists will attack your city next. Be afraid that Obama will allow doctors to kill your grandmother. Be afraid that the Democrats will tax you into poverty.
The Democratic message, from most quarters at least, has been, “Hey, that’s not true, quit being so mean. Incidentally, I still respect your right to say it even though I disagree with you, but I still think you’re being unnecessarily mean about it. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in the middle. Or possibly even slightly toward your end from the middle.”
Which of those is the more compelling message?
In this country, most of us grow up with the overarching societal concepts of divine judgment and knee-jerk patriotism, two notions which have been blended together very skillfully by the religious right. As such, being “un-American” is as much a sin as any violation of the Ten Commandments and a charge gleefully thrown at any so-called liberal to whom it will stick. “Socialist”, recalling as it does notions of Russia and Eastern Europe, has much the same effect.
So if you’re even remotely undecided, are you more likely to vote for the people who tell you you’re hell-bound if you don’t, or for the people without the balls to stand up to them?
No wonder the Democrats have gotten nothing done.
Want hope? Want change? Let’s see some real leadership from Reid and Pelosi, or a change in leadership if those two can’t get it done. Let’s see Team Blue get their own soundbites own there, show the Republicans a little backbone. Let’s see the insightful and incisive puncturing of the over-inflated rhetoric. Why are you appeasing the people who have screwed you over time after time after time?