Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama and the GOP

Yesterday I linked to a defense of President Obama's commitment to bipartisanship. The problem with the idea of bipartisanship is this: the best bill is the best bill, regardless of who supports it. Let's be technical and thoughtful about this, not political.

As a philosophy, that argument is probably right. However, it is in reality untenable. The stimulus bill, in fact the whole economic crisis, has both political causes and political consequences. Politics have already played a part in it, and will continue to do so. The very way we go about imagining the 'best bill' is shaped by political motivations.

Beyond that, this whole question of bipartisanship is particularly interesting because of the way Obama is approaching it. It seems, due to his own motivations and his own reasons, President Obama wants to pressure the Republican congress into major changes with its mode of operation, or face obliteration. He is not nearly as accommodating to GOP norms as the Clintons were, and seem to still be. Am I missing something when I think this?

Obama is basically saying, GOP, lose your tired ideologies, join the mainstream, and get to work -- or continue your trend toward irrelevance. Be more like the rest of us, or, while you sit out governance, we will continue to pass massive spending bills.

However, the current Republicans know they can't go back to their constituents and say, you know all those things we've told you the past fifteen years? That Democrats hang with terrorists? That they are baby-killers and want to raise all your taxes? Yeah, really, these Democrats are all right. It is reasonable of them to conclude they can't say that, not after the demonization of recent times.

So instead of joining Obama, they continue to go along with their old charade, because they assume, at the very least, they'll continue to get re-elected to office by their conservative districts or states. They just won't have any legitimacy to do anything once in Washington.

My point is, the GOP seriously needs a new plan.

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