Partisanship… Nothing “Bi” About it
Election season is tough. Tough on the candidates, of course, but it’s also tough on everyone else. We have to deal with the barrage of political advertising, get into all sorts of vigorous discussions with our friends, watch nail-biter debates, and delve into all of the particular inner workings of government that most of us would just rather do without. But the reason that we must endure through November 6th is because this election year is just too important. Since 2010, the top priority of the Republican Party has not been to improve the lives of their constituents, but to deny President Obama a second term. No seriously!! You don’t have to take my word for it… just listen to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell…
This is the political climate which defined President Obama’s first term in office. On one side you have the Democrats, whom behaved mostly as politicians are expected to. They didn’t always vote as a block on the issues… Each Legislator brought their own personal opinions and constituent needs to influence the way they voted. And of course, Democrats were plagued by the usual scandals, which this time befell outspoken Congressman Anthony Wiener and former Governor-turned-inmate Rod Blagoyevich. But when it came to big things, Democrats were able to get some of them done, despite massive GOP roadblocks… Healthcare reform, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, unprecedented consumer protections against bank and credit card fraud, and significant reforms for students to make paying their student loans back less of a life-long burden.
But all along the way, Democrats had to fight tooth-and-nail against an unplanned adversary… Republican partisanship. In 2009 and 2010, the Senate GOP launched an attack never seen before in all of American history. They filibustered EVERYTHING… even many bills that members once themselves sponsored and supported. The purpose of these filibusters weren’t because they believed the legislation was bad, but because any legislative accomplishment would be viewed as a positive for Barack Obama and the Democrats. So on legislation like the Dream Act… Something that has long held bi-partisan champions in the Senate, was killed as they sold their souls to the political devil to prevent any notion of American progress. They put party over country in the ultimate display of partisanship.
Finally in 2010, Republicans were able to reap some benefit from making the Democrats look bad. They won historic victories in the House, and now have a say in the legislative agenda. This historic tide came from a skilled combination of economic frustration, Anti-Democratic messaging and partisan-fueled hostility. But when Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleagues took control of the House, the gridlock didn’t end… not by a long-shot. They wasted the time and money of the American people on useless repetitive votes, and crafted legislation that they knew would not pass the Senate. It was then that the inner workings of the GOP were exposed, and that all of the partisan firewalls were taking an immeasurable toll.
Well immeasurable in one sense, but others see the price they are paying quite clearly. President Obama even believes, as revealed in a recent Des Moines Register interview, that the careful coalition that the GOP created to win the 2010 election is the same one that could cause them to lose in 2012. The party has gone so far to alienate Hispanic voters, that it may very well help the President get re-elected. And if that happens, the coalition will surely fracture. Why? Because they realize that there is nowhere else they can go without getting serious about Immigration reform, and appealing to a more diverse America. So in a way, the perils of Republican partisanship have produced a silver lining for Democrats. They improve the President’s chances for re-election, help Democrats to pick-up House seats, and almost guarantee an important legislative victory for the President in his first year back.
But one important question remains… if Mitt Romney is elected, what becomes of the GOP? Would it still fracture and regroup for 2016? In short, the answer is no. Whether they’d like to admit it or not, the GOP of 2012 is in desperate need of some changes. As Obama said, they can’t continue down a path to total exclusion. A Romney victory means that many Republicans will have to stick to their guns. They’d be forced to keep up the infighting between the Tea Party and the establishment wings of the party. They’d be forced to answer for the massive, outlandish promises Mitt Romney has made about his “magical” tax plan, self-deportation and repealing many of the GLBT rights advances that we’ve lived with over the last four years. They’d be forced to support Mitt Romney’s candidacy during 2016 and prevent a whole slew of much more “exciting” new candidates from running until 2020. They’d face the possibility of Mitt Romney facing off aganst Hillary Clinton, whom the Democrats would surely flock to if she chooses to run. Essentially, if Mitt Romney wins, GOP lawmakers are going to be asked to do the impossible. See that’s the unintended consequence of partisanship… it’s a short-term fix, but in the long-run it leads to more destruction. As crazy as it sounds, the best thing for those that truly care about the Republican Party’s future may be to re-elect President Obama. Of course, I don’t think Democrats would complain either!!
In two short weeks, we’ll have many of these answers. But for now, we have to wait and see just how thick the GOP’s partisan firewall is.