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First Hundred Days

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Lots have been said about the first one hundred days of the Barack Obama administration.  Certainly all the predictions during the long and bitter campaign for the White House about Mr. Obama being the worst thing that could happen to America, usurping the title from his predecessor George Bush, would’ve panned out by now.

But despite being handed the keys to the country at what could arguably be considered the most chaotic time in our nation’s history, Mr. Obama’s approval ratings continue to remain pretty high.  Mr. Obama has to deal with the mess of two wars on terror, the swine flu, an economy in ruin, the imminent demise of a variety of blue chip companies, a healthcare crisis that continues to come to a head, an impending energy crisis, and much, much more to come.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama has operated free of error.  More than a few of his cabinet selections have come up short and petered out.  Some of the managements of the various bailout funds continue to be poorly planned as well as poorly executed.  And there have certainly been other missteps.  But without a doubt, the majority of people are willing to overlook many of the mistakes that have been made and focus on the successes of a job well done.  In an era of deep cynicism, Mr. Obama’s approval ratings hover around seventy percent.

In comparison, the past one hundred days have not been so kind to the Republican Party and their staunch insistence on following conservative principles at the expense of anything and everything else.  People are out of work and the conservative party wants to lower property taxes.  People need more educational opportunities and the conservatives want to eliminate capital gain taxes.  People need health care and the conservatives want to lower corporate tax rates.

The past year has shown a great deal of corruption in the marketplace and conservatives want to reduce regulation.  The market will correct itself if government would just stand out of the way and let the bigger companies continue to ravage smaller companies and the public at large.  If nobody is around to investigate then there’s nobody around to say something’s wrong.  If there’s no law to say that it is wrong then there’s no reason to think anything’s wrong.  If you’re a corporate shark looking to make as much money as possible, it’s the best of everything.

But as Upton Sinclair wrote in the Jungle, the last thing we want to give corporate America is free reign.  Mr. Sinclair’s novel depicted the harshness of poverty combined with the absence of social programs and unpleasant living and working conditions, and the hopelessness prevalent among the poor when contrasted with the corruption on part of the wealthy.  Why would we work so hard to return to such an arrangement?

Now, after eight years of sitting on their hands and pretending everything is going well, conservatives are promoting tea parties to protest government spending as a means to jumpstart the economy.  Where were all these people when Blackwater and Halliburton were winning no bid contracts and turning billion dollar profits?

Conservatives have spent the first one hundred days protesting everything the Obama administration does.  From the infighting amongst Republicans figureheads for leadership to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal referring to the President’s stimulus plan as irresponsible to Rush Limbaugh bouncing at the podium saying he hopes the Obama administration fails to Senator John Boehner proposing an alternative budget without any dollar figures to Michael Steele giving kudos to his Republican brotherhood for their ability to stand unified against any sign of a bipartisan effort on behalf of the legislative branch.

In a survey conducted by USA Today/Gallup Poll, two thirds of the American population says that the President has made a sincere effort to work with the Republicans on the major issues facing the country.  The same survey says that only a little more than a third of Americans are say the Republicans are reaching back.  It is becoming more and more obvious to the American people that the conservatives are losing the fight to maintain relevance.

Republicans are resorting to strong arm tactics to force noncompliance from party members.  This was pretty evident when Joseph Cao, the new Republican congressman from New Orleans, told reporters he was leaning yes on a particular issue.  Shortly thereafter, when it came time for the vote, the Republican Party’s chief deputy whip stood next to Mr. Cao during the entire vote assuring that Mr. Cao voted no.

While that was probably good for the Republicans Party in the short term, the long term affects will be more telling.  As the party hovers like a hawk looking to quell any dissension, it will lose members who are looking to do what they feel is best for the country and not just what’s best for the Republican Party.  Senator Arlen Specter is the first congressman to abandon the hard line conservatives for more politically reasonable pastures.  Mr. Specter said that, in principle, the Republican Party has gone far to the right and in recent times he has felt uncomfortable with their conservative position.  As the picture evolved, Mr. Specter felt a lot more comfortable with Democrats than Republicans.

In recent elections, the Republican Party has been methodically taken to task by the American public.  It has been beaten down like a wayward stepchild.  And the strategy of opposing anything Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party does allows them the appearance that they are unified and that they have some semblance of a pulse.  At least the Republicans understand the importance of at least appearing unified.

Republicans that are secure in their political districts believe they have more to gain by opposing any move by their political opponents.  If any measures by the Democrats or Mr. Obama work, some staunch Republican constituents would rather cut their own throats than credit any Democrat.  If any of these measures falter, Republicans will get a huge opportunity to say I told you so.

The first hundred days have been pretty interesting.  But, one has to admit that the there are only so many times the opposition can press its membership to block legislation in order to benefit the party.  If the approval numbers remain where they are now or the chasm between the President’s party and the congressional Republicans widens even further, the near term future of more conservative politicians could be pretty bleak.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 - Posted by | Life, Politics, Thoughts

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