Obama Gets It

President Obama really does get it.

It really would be nice to go back to the old days, when the
Republican minority represented “the loyal opposition,” but it’s just not going
to happen until we push it, and push it hard. The “loyal opposition” concept is
foreign to the far right wing that dominates the Republican Party today; if you don’t believe exactly as they do, you’re
the enemy; even if 60% of your enemy’s agenda is the same as yours. In fact,
that’s what Republicans found so vexing about Bill Clinton back in the day, and
what they find so vexing about Obama now. Clinton and Obama are actually quite
conservative, ideologically speaking.

The “loyal opposition” concept is how our country was
created, it’s how we operated for two centuries, and it’s how we became the
most powerful nation on earth. The two major parties, whatever they were, had
differences of opinion, held spirited campaigns in which they fought tooth and
nail, and sometimes got a little too personal. But in the end, when they took
the oath of office, they understood that they work for the people who put them
there, and they work for the good of the country above all else.

The way our
system is supposed to function is that the majority party directs the
agenda with the opposition pulling them a little their way and tacking on some
of their own ideas. The end result of that process is supposed to be a bill
that includes elements of both sides of the debate. In other words, they are
opposing political forces working toward the same goal; a happy, healthy, prosperous
nation. Campaign rhetoric used to stop the day after the election, and didn’t
start up again until months before the next election, and it rarely made an
appearance on the House or Senate chambers, except in the form of a speech. Back
in the day, it wasn’t about “stopping” the other party; it was about making the
country better, and thinking you had a better way to do so. For modern-day
Republicans, that is no longer the case; now, the “Democrat” Party is the
enemy, and the enemy can never be coddled.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “loyal opposition”
concept, don’t feel bad; for anyone under the age of 40, it’s been missing your entire adult life. Even at 50 (alright, 51 – satisfied?), I’ve had to dig
way back to a time when it still existed. I remember I was 14 and doing
some work for a liberal Republican (yes, Virginia, there used to be such a thing). We were sitting in his office discussing
politics one afternoon, and he explained to me how the Republican Party had changed in recent

The way he described it (and I remember this conversation
vividly), the Republicans, who were a minority party, registration-wise,
adopted a strategy whereby they would seriously depress voter turnout
by making people disgusted with politicians in general. This is why they began
to appeal to the most disgusting people in our society, and why they seem so
backed into a corner right now, politically speaking. They wanted the votes of
Southern white trash, but they weren’t just doing that for the extra votes; their
intention was to force their Democratic opposition to engage them on their
level, which would in turn disgust many voters enough to stay away from the
polls, thus effectively ceding power to the idiot horde that makes up their “base.”

And now, they’re stuck. Their most loyal followers are dying
off in droves, and their kids are less likely to buy the bullshit. But they
have become so dependent on that “base,” they don’t know how to operate without
it. If they don’t refer to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and others as something
akin to “un-American enemies,” they’ll lose their “base,” and they cannot figure
out how to win without them, even when it becomes clear they can’t win with them.

And make no mistake; they are all about winning and little
else. They don’t care what happens to this country; they’re all about power.
Listen to how they bitch and whine about how much Democrats “ignore” them. Are
they kidding? One of the reasons the health insurance reform bill is so muddled at the moment
is because of amendments demanded by Republicans who never had any intention to
vote for it, anyway. A large chunk of the stimulus package was a kowtow to them, and
they still didn’t vote for it. Have you considered the Republican definition of
“bipartisanship”? “Bipartisanship” to the Republicans these days is putting up
their own bill, and if the majority doesn’t pass it, they whine about being
ignored. They have 41 votes in the Senate and 176 in the House; do they really
think they’re entitled to a majority vote on 100% of their agenda? Apparently
they do.  

When President Obama showed up at the Republican retreat in
Baltimore last week, he took on 140 Republicans on their own turf, and kicked
their asses. He told them to their faces that they were lying obstructionist
assholes (albeit in less-blunt language), and they responded like petulant lying
obstructionist assholes. They literally can’t help it. The problem isn’t that
they think they’re right; it’s that they know everyone else is wrong. I mean, they stood
there in front of him on national television, and demanded to know why their
magical health care plans — to cover everyone with insurance, remove all coverage restrictions
and reduce premiums for everyone, all without spending one thin dime of
taxpayers’ money — wasn’t taken seriously. Next, they'll be asking the president to hire David Copperfield to make the deficit disappear because, well, he did so with the Space Shuttle one time…

But at least Obama’s on record kicking their asses. He’s
also on record as knowing he has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting
actual bipartisan support. Now, when we see him making such overtures, we can stop
wondering aloud (and I mean very loud at times) why he keeps doing it. He’s
doing it because it’s politically necessary. There are still a lot of
reasonable people out there who just happen to be registered Republican, and
they are just as disgusted with what’s happening to their party as we are, and
they need to know we have their back.

We have to fight the right wing, and one way to do that is
to support Obama and the Democrats, and make sure they know we have their
backs. We have to stop running away from them every time they say or do
something we don’t like.

Obama will continue to make overtures to Republicans,
because a majority of the American people actually want the two parties working
together to fix the nation’s problems, and because we can’t expose the right
wing as charlatans without it. And we have to help.

By the way, progressives need to stop referring to
themselves “the Democratic base,” because we’re not. Actually, some
progressives are, but the ones who are speaking the loudest about the president
“losing his base” are most certainly not.

More on that tomorrow…

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