Limits of Obstruction

by Sam Uretsky

Robert Draper’s April 2012 book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do, describes a Republican dinner, held the night of President Obama’s inauguration, in which Republican leaders, including Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, made plans to block the incoming President’s programs. Mr. Draper’s book, and of course Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) statement, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” stand in glaring contrast to Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, where he said, “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept.”

There’s one more report worth mentioning, from the Sept. 1 Washington Post, headlined, “Obama did not change Washington. Was there a way around united Republican opposition?” Dan Balz, an experienced Washington reporter and winner of the Merriman Smith Award for excellence in presidential coverage, interviewed a large number of Washington insiders, and from his report, it appears that President Obama went to extreme lengths to get bipartisan cooperation. The efforts to achieve bipartisan support explains why the economic stimulus program was so heavily weighted in favor of tax cuts, which are a notoriously inefficient way of producing Keynesian stimulus. The public option was also sacrificed. Then, having blocked the major initiatives of the Democrats, the Republicans could declare the Obama administration a failure. It’s a uniquely shameful display.

In that sense, the two party platforms are mirror images of each other. The Democratic platform does reflect the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform and combat global warming while the Republican platform wants more restrictive immigration laws and more carbon-based energy development. The Republicans are pledged to block every major social initiative that the Democrats have proposed.

The Republicans are aware that their time is passing. The Demographic trends are against them. Lindsay Graham said it: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” It raises the question of whether they have a strategy to stay relevant. From the evidence, they have nothing that will work within the time frame of one or two elections. Given enough time, the parties may realign, voting blocs may shift, but people in the politics business aren’t willing to wait for the march of history.

The Republicans have approached this election by writing off large blocs of voters – African-Americans, Hispanics, GLBT, women. They have relied on veiled racist attitudes and misinformation. As the demographics of the country change, the Republicans are assuring their own obsolescence. This year they may still win, but four years from now the growth of the minority groups turns the paranoid Caucasian males into a dwindling fraction of the voting population, the Republican strategies will be useless. It seems fair to ask why the GOP doesn’t return to its Big Tent approach. The answer is, they can’t. It’s not their nature.

Repeated psychological studies show that Republicans are less a group with unified interests than a common psychology. The blue-collar workers who are determinedly Republican would seem to be the very opposite of the billionaire Koch brothers, but they are brought together by a common sense of fear of others and otherness. There is a common lack of trust in government. There is a fear of complexity, so that even while calling for individual rights and smaller government, Republicans want an authoritarian leader. They are a party that can’t deal with paradox, and yet are themselves intensely paradoxical. Four years from now, as the minorities become larger voting blocks, the Republicans will have no choice but modify their message or go the way of the Whigs and Federalists. But they’ve had a chance to show how much damage they can do, and are willing to do in order to retain power.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2012

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