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The Politics Of Obstruction

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now trying to convince the public that President Barack Obama and the Democrats were able to pass every legislative item Mr. Obama wanted in his first two years in the White House due to large Democratic majorities in both houses of the Congress. This is supposed to be a rejoinder to the President’s reelection strategy of attacking Republicans as obstructionists. But in reality, Mr. McConnell did his best to thwart Mr. Obama’s agenda at each and every step during his presidency.

It was Mitch McConnell who “misspoke” and said that his number one goal was not to help the country get back on its feet after the economic crisis that started with Mr. Obama’s predecessor but for Mr. Obama to be a one term President. To obtain that end, Mr. McConnell and the rest of the Congress Republicans instituted a policy of obstructionism that has grinded the federal government to a slow, painful crawl. Under Mr. McConnell’s direction the Senate Republicans shifted into serial filibuster mode, setting a record number of the procedure meant to stop the legislative process, and successfully thwarting large chunks of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

By forcing Democrats to find a filibuster proof sixty votes for each and every action, Mr. McConnell and his posse were able to block such initiatives as climate change, immigration reform, appropriations bills, appointments, and an effort to let the Bush tax cuts expire for high income taxpayers. Big legislative items like healthcare reform and the economic stimulus package were passed but were significantly scaled back from Mr. Obama’s original vision in an attempt to get enough conservative legislators to buck party trends and break the Republican filibusters.

For the most part, Mr. Obama tolerated the obstructionism to the chagrin of his political base. It goes without saying that the people who oppose Mr. Obama, people who feel like he’s an undercover Muslim from Kenya who faked his birth certificate in order to lead the country into an apocalyptic future and fulfilling the goals of his true master Osama bin Laden, will argue that the President was never serious about negotiating with the conservative political leaders. But the people who supported Mr. Obama were severely disappointed with his performance and the way he lackadaisically reacted to the political obstruction, doing his best to appear committed to a compromise while his opponents openly called for an open war of political opinion.

That’s the way it used to be. But now that his job is on the line and the time has come to put up or shut up, Mr. Obama has decided to put up. Since late last year, the President has switched political gears and has started to call the Republicans out for their obstructionism. In order to get reelected, the President will be running against the do nothing Congress.

After reaping the benefits of the midterm elections held back in 2010, Mr. McConnell explained that the political strategy behind the obstructionism was to deny Mr. Obama and the Democrats any claim to bipartisan politics saying that when you hang the bipartisan tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and when you have the appearance of agreement, that could be interpreted as the way forward. You can’t defeat a President if people see him as making progress. The obstruction had the secondary effect of damaging Mr. Obama’s image and making Mr. Obama appear ineffective and politically weak, resembling another ineffective Democrat, Jimmy Carter who was the last one term Democratic President. And now, Mr. McConnell wants to claim that all that opposition had absolutely no impact on Mr. Obama’s ability to do his job because Mr. Obama got everything he wanted and the Republicans were only along for the ride.

In a few weeks, the payroll tax holiday extension that the Congress granted a two month reprieve will be in danger of expiring again. From the get go, Mr. Obama wanted it extended for at least a year. Republicans gave two months and now we have to play this out again. Will the Republicans block another extension and swear that they aren’t trying to block Mr. Obama’s agenda or will they capitulate on the issue? Mr. McConnell swears that Mr. Obama gets what Mr. Obama wants. It would be a no brainer that the Republicans will again dig in the heels and prevent any progress.

Time and time again the Republicans have leaped at the opportunity to have high profile confrontations with Mr. Obama. There is no picking and choosing battles with this group. And now that we are in the early stages of a presidential campaign, one has to wonder if they have damaged their public standing with each confrontation manifesting their fanaticism for obstruction and division.

Mr. Obama has begun the process of reestablishing his political standing by highlighting Republican opposition. As much as he would like, Mr. McConnell cannot deny the Republican’s block and delay strategy no matter how much he tries to rewrite history. And Republican’s continued opposition will help absolve Mr. Obama of blame and will do wonders to rehabilitate his image and make him look more like a strong leader willing to compromise with his adversaries. And today, more than ever, the country wants its political leaders to compromise and come to an understanding that will best help all of us get out of the economic doldrums we find ourselves in.

Now that Mr. Obama is calling out his political rivals, his favorability rating has started to climb. Mr. Obama has reached fifty percent favorability for the first time since he announced that Osama bin Laden was terminated early last year. Without a doubt the improving economy has helped. But it should be noted that the improving economy perception hasn’t helped the Congress which has seen its approval rating continue to fall. Indeed, the shifting numbers have helped Mr. Obama define his reelection strategy asking voters to judge him against a conservative alternative, deeply rooted in the ideology of the Republicans in the Congress who happen to be very unpopular.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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