Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Beyond the lost horizon

President Obama came to office pledging a new era of compromise and bipartisanship in our nation's capital. It's a tonal change that we still need, and it was one of the reasons (a minor one, but still a reason) that a slightly more naive version of me supported him for the White House two years ago. Obama did his best to make good on that promise, compromising upfront with congressional Republicans on provisions of the stimulus package that saved the economy from freefall and allowing the health care reform debate to drag on and on through month after month of ultimately fruitless attempts to reach bipartisan agreement before going with a bill far less strident than much of the Democratic base wanted.

What has he gotten from the GOP in return? Condemnation as an out-of-control socialist outsider bent on destroying America and an unprecedented string of pointless filibusters that served as little more than the procedural equivalent of a gigantic "Nobama" bumper sticker. Republicans have delayed dozens of Obama appointments for months, even nominations that sail through unanimously when they finally get a hearing. They've filibustered everything from the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gay soldiers to a bill to help small businesses create jobs. And as emergency unemployment benefits for millions of Americans expire amid persistently high joblessness, the GOP shows few signs that it's willing even to consider compromise in the months and years to come.

The midterm elections, which left us with a Republican House and a weakened Democratic majority in an already dysfunctional Senate, mean we're going to see even more of this dog and pony show in the next two years. The conservative base, angered by the actions of Democratic leaders they never liked in the first place, turned out in droves during the midterm elections. Enough independents lashed out at the state of the economy by voting against the people in charge, even if they actually disliked their opponents' positions. Most voters, distressed by the bad economy and frustrated that Obama hasn't turned around the deep recession he inherited more quickly, simply stayed home.

Republicans seem to have taken the 2010 election results as a resounding endorsement of the very same Bush-era policies that voters soundly rejected in 2008, but the facts just don't bear that out. The American people didn't call for protecting rich people's tax cuts or repealing a health care law that enjoys majority support. They didn't call for political theater or budgetary games of chicken. They called for a better economy with more jobs and growing incomes. In the long run, we'll have to address our national debt with both spending cuts and more taxes. But to protect and nurture our wobbly economic recovery for now, we'll need more temporary tax cuts and -- cover your ears, tea partiers -- more temporary public spending, too.

It's not about 2012. It's about now. I'd like to believe leaders in both parties get that. But to a degree I couldn't have imagined even in my most cynical moments a few years ago, I'm now fully capable of believing they won't.

The blinders are off, and ugliness stretches all the way to the horizon. Beyond, though, lies the promise of a better tomorrow. It's the hope that will sustain us all as we march through the dark days ahead, the hope that we will emerge from these struggles stronger and wiser than we've ever been before, the hope that our best days as a nation are yet to come.



Nice perception

3:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home