Column for 28 February, 2010

PLAYING FOR KEEPS

 “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.  In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  –Genesis 15:13

There are a few hopeful signs that Barack Obama and the Democrats are starting to realize that they are actually in charge of the government now and are expected to govern.  First, coming off a well-received State of the Union Address, Barack Obama was handed an opportunity on a silver platter:  House Republicans invited him to a caucus meeting, where he proceeded to school them on live national television.  I expect the GOP will be somewhat better prepared at the Health Care Summit; at the very least they will keep twits like Jeb Hensarling away from the microphones.  Second, Senate Democrats have evidently discovered that 59 votes out of a hundred constitutes a majority.  Third, politically tone-deaf big health insurance companies chose precisely the wrong moment to announce massive rate hikes while simultaneously posting record profits, thereby reminding people who have been cool to reform so far just why they despise big health insurance companies.  And yet, it’s taken a year and a humiliating defeat in the Massachusetts Senate special election to prod Democrats to action.  Why?  Blame has to go to the “leadership,” and I use that term loosely.  I have repeatedly criticized President Obama for his combination of naïveté, inexperience and narcissism, but blame must also go to Senate Majority Harry Reid, surely the most feckless and vacillating Congressional leader since the singularly impotent former Speaker Tom Foley.  In marked contrast to the machine-like efficiency of Nancy Pelosi’s regime in the House, Reid has been unable to cobble together a working majority, and allowed Republicans to push with impunity the absurd notion that a super-majority has always been required to conduct any business whatsoever.  You may recall that only a few years ago, when Democrats threatened to filibuster a handful of George W. Bush’s judicial appointments, the Republic Party and the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus were apoplectic.  Now, according to John Cornyn, the very notion of majority rule has become the “nuclear option,” even though Republicans freely used the reconciliation process to pass various segments of Bush’s agenda.  That, however, is really beside the point.  Yes, Republicans are obstructionist and hypocritical.  Yes, the mainstream media is dominated by Right Wing mouthpieces and blatant propagandists.  Boo hoo!  Democratic politicians knew this from the start, or they should have.  Anyone who was awake and paying attention during the 1990’s should have realized that the Right Wing would demonize and attack Barack Obama just as they attacked and demonized Bill Clinton.  Then as now Republicans made the political calculation that a policy of saying (actually shouting) “no” to anything and everything would eventually pay dividends, and it did, gaining the GOP control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in 50 years.  Then, as now, they were aided and abetted by a Democratic leadership seemingly unable to function, let alone pursue an agenda or defend against attacks.  Even after Clinton left office, Republicans and the Right Wing spent nearly all eight years of the Bush presidency launching hysterical attacks against anyone who dared to criticize them, giving birth to an entire industry of rewriting history and common sense to make liberals out to be simultaneously Nazis, Atheists, Communists and Islamists.  A recent Research 2000 poll confirmed that self-identified Republicans are, frankly, nuts, with large majorities either believing or being open to the outrageous and long-discredited myth that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia or France or possibly the planet Vulcan.  These are the people Democrats think they can negotiate with?  In Texas, always the cutting edge for political lunacy, Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign for governor is floundering, even with the noxious Rick Perry having to split the lunatic fringe vote with Debra Medina, a candidate so insane that Glenn Beck calls her insane.  Given all that, it is inexcusable political incompetence for Democrats not to have seen this coming.  Instead, they squandered Obama’s momentum and poll numbers, wasted an entire year, and wound up with “achievements” that were watered-down shadows of what they might have been:  a second bailout only slightly less odious than Bush’s, and a stimulus package so weak it only just managed to prevent the Great Recession from becoming worse.  If health care reform does pass, it is likely to be some variation of the Senate bill, very thin gruel indeed that essentially rewards predatory insurance corporations by providing them with millions of new victims while scarcely restraining their most repulsive practices.  And even this will be denounced in sobbing tones by Glenn Beck as Shining Path Maoism.  So, Democrats, stop your whining about obstructionist Congressional Republicans and FOX “News.”  You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.  Screw up your courage, strap on your armor and get in the fight.  If you win, you have a chance (a slim chance, at this point) to fundamentally transform the country.  If you lose, you can’t blame the Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck, Mitch McConnell or anyone else; your failure will be your own.

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Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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