When President Obama came to office, it became congressional Republican policy to simply oppose and block anything and everything he wanted. Whether it was the tax cut stimulus or Obamacare and everything in-between, the Republican minority in Congress made it a central theme and strategy simply to reject everything the President wanted. So soon after the McCain campaign’s “Country First”, Republicans put party and partisanship first, country be damned.
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That was the sole policy aim, as Senator Mitch McConnell so succinctly put it, and they failed. They weakened the stimulus, but didn’t destroy it – as a result, our recovery is weaker than it needed to be, but still better than the UK, where its conservative government is now reaping the myriad failures of austerity. They weakened Obamacare by rejecting the public option, but they couldn’t kill it. They’re still trying.
Disagreement and partisanship are to be expected and accepted within the context of representative pluralist democracies. But in 2008, the Republican Party twisted that into not just political, but governmental sabotage. It’s how the now-weakened tea party was conceived and was built on a foundation of denigrating President Obama as being foreign, un-American, not one of us. As Carl Paladino emailed on Monday, Obama wasn’t just a Kenyan usurper, but an “affirmative action” President.
But Obama is now finishing up his second term of office, and will likely never run for office again. Therefore, the constraints of electoral politics no longer hold him back, and he can give “no fucks“. Similarly, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner – pushed out by tea party hard-liners – gives no fucks, either. Because they no longer fear political consequences, they are free to govern. They’re free to compromise.
In point of fact, our federal congress was specifically designed to require and encourage compromise. Ours is not a parliamentary system where a majority government has, in effect, the political equivalent of carte blanche to implement the policies on which it run and won election. Here, a Senate minority can block legislation, and compromise is often required, if not encouraged.
Today, the NFG Congress and NFG President will cut a budget deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government shut-down until some point after the 2016 election. This is Boehner and Obama unconstrained by political considerations acting in the best interests of the country. This is compromise. This is how our government is supposed to work, and was designed to work.
For one day, at least, the grownups are back in charge.