I’ll go ahead and up front admit to some early suspicion of a “right wing conspiracy” to undermine President Obama. But that’s a little melodramatic, isn’t it? So, I’ve adjusted myself, come back to reason, and will just say that there seems to be concerted effort by the Republican establishment to continue with business as usual in Washington. And by “business as usual”, I mean a partisan and ideological commitment at the expense of progress- even the chance of progress.
The announcement of Sen. Judd Gregg’s decision to withdraw his bid for Commerce Secretary is what made me suspicious. I get the very real political differences between Democrats and Republicans, and even think these differences are healthy and, ideally, work to the benefit of the American public. But that only works to our (the American public) benefit if the two parties are willing to actually work together through those differences. President Obama has done his part, extending a branch time and again. Gregg’s nomination, even with the strategic smarts of it all, was but one of those branches. Sen. Gregg, himself, praises this fact, saying, “He (Obama) has been a person who has reached out and aggressively reached out, across the aisle,” (New York Times, 2/12/09).
But Republicans’ response to the stimulus package is a prime example of the refusal to make progress. I actually think there’s reason to be concerned about some parts of the package. Legislation, particularly important legislation, is rarely perfect on the first go-round. Early objections, by Republicans as well as Democrats, was welcomed and even expected. It is the American way and the way our legislative branch should work. But the opposition cannot come, complain, offer few alternative options, and then take their ball home when the final product isn’t fully as they would have written it. That’s not sticking to your guns. It certainly isn’t progress. Instead, it’s obstruction. And for all the debate over the last week about what Americans voted for… partisan obstruction definitely wasn’t on the list.
When it comes to the economy, people- regular people- are struggling. We want something to happen. Give us an idea and let’s see if it works. For all the theories about what works, Republicans have had a shot. It didn’t work. Let’s try something new. Instead of working against the administration, work with it to make things better. No one’s asking Republican lawmakers to give up Republican fundamentals. But this gamble that Americans will mistake Republicans’ ideological stubbornness for anything other than what it is at the expense of doing something is quite a risk. And it’s not one that is likely to help.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently complained that, “This package, had it been developed in genuine consultation, could have had a different result… But at the end of the day, it was–the administration decided–let the package be developed in Congress by the majority.” (The New Republic, 2/10/09). That would be almost believable if the nation hadn’t watched weeks’ worth of Obama administration efforts to reach out to the other side.