Why Obstructionism is, Unfortunately, a Fine Political Strategy

A friend of James Fallows makes a spectacular point, one that should be repeated by liberals as often as possible:

“How can the MSM (what’s left of it) not “get” that disappointment in Obama over “lack of change” is precisely the object of the GOP in blocking change?  Does no one remember Newt Gingrich and the GOP strategy from 1992 to 1994, which actually worked?  How can the GOP steal second and third in one play AGAIN and not get nailed this time?  I want to scream.  In any sensible society, instead of disappointment in Obama there would be intense anger at the GOP, and they’d be forced to knock it off.”

Watching the Ed Show on MSNBC last night made me want to pull my hair out.  Ed and Roy Sekoff (HuffPo editor), both of whom I generally agree with, were going on and on about Obama’s broken promises.  I’m willing to admit that Obama has been less forceful in pushing some of the issues I care a lot about (notably the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), and I believe it’s extremely important that we have folks like Ed Schultz and the Arianna Huffington-editorial express out there continuing to press the administration further left.

But you simply cannot discuss what Obama has “failed to accomplish,” without understanding how much that failure has been dependent on the ability of congressional Republicans to stall small parts of the Democratic agenda.  Those small stalls add up — to something far larger.  Obama promised a more efficient, better run bureaucracy than Bush. Hard to accomplish that when Senate Republicans put anonymous holds on administration appointees for bogus reasons.  Obama promised healthcare reform by the August recess.  Republicans kept promising they would work with Democrats to create a bipartisan bill.  No dice.  The bill gets postponed.   Obama promises a crazy good climate change bill.  Some Republicans in the Senate hop on and promise to vote for it, thus assuring it will clear the 60 votes necessary for cloture, but only if it’s substantially weakened. Republicans, in general, say no to everything Obama wants, pulling a few centrist Dems along with them, undermining any and every policy initiative at the risk of looking like naysayers.

There are many, many more examples.  The Senate is primed to stymie change, to let the minority make the best of the majority they must work with.  That in and of itself is bad enough.  But when the members of the minority are hell-bent on doing everything they can to not work with the majority, indeed to take down all of its policy proposals, it’s kind of hard to look as if you’re fulfilling any of the presidential campaign promises you made.  And it’s easy for the Republicans to run two years later on a platform of “Obama didn’t do anything,” aided by the media’s continued assertions that he failed to come through on any of this big ticket items.

If it were simply a matter of Obama and Democrats in Congress having the willpower, we would all be living in a larger version of Norway.  But we’ve got the GOP wielding a ridiculous degree of structural power, assisted all the way there by very-centrist Democrats and the so-called liberal media.


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