It was a pleasant dream, but still just a dream. That members of the House and Senate would work together, setting aside their ideologies and petty projects so they could do what was right for the country instead of voting along party lines or pandering to local constituencies and friendly lobbyists. When Judd Gregg withdrew his name from the nomination for Commerce Secretary, it signaled the GOP’s absolute unwillingness to work with anybody who has an opposing point of view. He didn’t withdraw because he suddenly realized that he and President Obama have different economic philosophies. Obama has talked openly about the need for a big stimulus package since long before January 20th. After having pursued the job by querying Obama staffers about a position in the Cabinet, he pulled out because he was being leaned on by the RNC, which smells blood in the water. Its own blood. Gregg turned down a big pay-raise and a prestigious seat in the Presidential Cabinet because he was being treated like a traitor and threatened by his fellow Republicans. The man is a coelenterate. The Party has no conscience.
The Republican Party is in the process of forming a circular firing squad. Unfortunately, the middle class is sitting right in the middle of that cross-fire. Nobel Prize-winning economists were lining up to support the stimulus package, with some even saying it was too small, yet the GOP financial wizards who were responsible for getting us into this debacle were predicting the doom of capitalism and rise of socialism if the bill was signed into law. These are many of the same people who supported Phil Graham’s legislation back in 1999 which all but eliminated any regulation of the banking industry. These were the same “free marketers” who insisted that corporations would always do the right thing. Then ENRON collapsed. These are the intellectual giants who presided over a national debt that went from a billion dollar surplus to trillions of dollars in the red in a matter of six short years. Did a few democrats enable some of that behavior? Of course, but the fiscal policies of the Bush Administration and the anti-regulation ideology of the Republican Party built the foundation of sand upon which our economy was expanding.
Hopefully, Obama has learned a sad, yet important lesson in the last month. He must realize by now that the Republican party is driven exclusively by ideology, rather than by pragmatic reasoning. When he hears United States senators apologizing to a radio talkshow host for criticizing his “I hope Obama fails” remark, Obama must know that he is dealing with people who are bent on obstructing anything that he tries to do, regardless of how much damage it might to do the country. He’s dealing with ideologues who think that tax cuts alone will save the economy from catastrophe, even though a study of the last tax cut showed that it had no measurable impact on the economy. He’s dealing with people who led the charge for last year’s government hand-out, which failed to do anything for the people who received those checks in the mail. He’s dealing with people who are looking for their next campaign slogan, rather than useful solutions to the terrible problems we face.
Obama will always be a civil negotiator. That’s his nature. He appears to be a guy who rarely if ever loses his cool. But he needs to take the gloves off and make it clear to the American people what he is dealing with on Capitol Hill. Between now and 2012, the GOP’s circular firing squad will lock and load, and the Republican Party will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist as a viable national party. We can only hope that it won’t succeed in taking the middle class with it.