Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sit down, and shut up.

Seriously. If the answer to this sort of whining isn't "sucks to be you", then I cannot understand why we hold elections. In a country in which the two hegemonic parties are frustratingly indistinguishable in important ways, I find it appalling that we should try to eradicate via 'bipartisanship' the few areas where there is some substantive difference between them.

Let's consider a few facts about this situation. Boehner is part of a GOP minority that got significantly smaller last November... and it's clear that the GOP hasn't been severely hemorrhaging congressional seats for the last 2 years because people want their approval on every single piece of legislation. Once Franken is seated, the Democrats will have 59 senate seats including Lieberman. Add to that the enormous amount of momentum behind our nearly universally-adored President.

Thus, there is absolutely no reason to blame the Republicans for the character of policy that emerges out of the next legislative session. I'm sure some liberals and other apologists will find ways to do it nonetheless, but if any legislation passed by the new Congress is tepid, latently conservative or otherwise insufficiently progressive the Democrats have no excuse. The Republicans have hardly anything to bargain with and are a defeated, directionless party at the moment. They do not even have the congressional muscle or force to pose any serious opposition to the Democrat's legislative agenda. If the Democrats don't simply pound them into submission (or completely ignore them) then what is the point of voting against Republicans?

I was struck by this excerpt fromt he NYTimes link above: "Republicans in Congress plan to test the new president's commitment to bipartisanship". Right. I fail to see how all of this talk about bipartisanship (which was in no sense a concession forced from the Dems out of a need for GOP support) is going to do anything besides bolstering the Republicans and give them a measure of credibility, something that they've worked long and hard to sully over the past 8 years in particular. Given all of the groveling talk about 'reaching across the aisle', Obama would now appear to renege on promises were he to simply call for an up/down vote on his stimulus plan. How that is a good thing is beyond me. Perhaps we should stop holding elections and simply arrange congress so that it is perpetually 50/50 Democrat and Republican so that we can more effectively ensure that 'bipartisanship' is the law of the land.

If all the talk about 'bipartisanship' isn't merely one huge rhetorical gambit designed to better crush Republican opposition (and I'm not convinced of the instrumental value of this strategy), then I am at a loss. At least Bush tried to make use of his majorities when he had them, even when they were slim.


From recent Krugman op/ed: "But here’s the thing: Most Americans aren’t listening. The most encouraging thing I’ve heard lately is Mr. Obama’s reported response to Republican objections to a spending-oriented economic plan: “I won.” Indeed he did — and he should disregard the huffing and puffing of those who lost."

If true, then we should assume that all the talk about 'bipartisanship' is nothing but vacuous rhetoric. I'm curious to see how this plays out.

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