I'm back!! Explaining my absence from the blogosphere since the Presidential election would be boring and off-topic. Suffice it to say a death in the family over the holidays. But, I'm back.
It seems like everywhere I turn the past week news reporters and commentators are asking if Barack Obama is being too bi-partisan, too conciliatory to the Republican Senators and Representatives he has been courting on Capitol Hill. "What's he waiting for? Why doesn't he just ram his programs through?" The conventional wisdom seems to be he's just following his bi-partisan rhetoric now and will abandon it in the Senate fight. This idea seems to make many on the left hopeful. I don't think he will get tough yet.
I haven't seen one report or comment that discusses what I think he's doing, and I wonder why I'm alone.
As I see it, though Mr. Obama is now President, he has not stopped campaigning. He is campaigning in the media to further increase Democratic majorities in the 2010 elections. Obama thinks strategically, not just tactically. Successful leadership of the Democratic Party requires that he constantly think about how to increase the Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress. To do this, he's offering the Republicans all the rope they will take to enable them to hang themselves individually, and their party as a whole, in the public mind. By very visibly demonstrating bi-partisanship and inviting Republicans to cooperate, he has baited a political trap for them and they are swallowing the bait whole.
Obama knew their election losses would tempt them into the public backlash we are seeing against his programs. Programs the large majority of Americans support. The Republican leadership's current attempts to minimize or prevent passage of the financial stimulus package demonstrates further, as though their crushing election losses in November weren't enough, how politically tone-deaf the party is in the face of our dire financial problems and the general mood of the country.
Campaigning or filibustering against a large and effective economic stimulus program at this dark time is something akin to political suicide, but that's exactly what Republicans are doing. It appears they desperately need to show their remaining base that they are hanging tough on principle. It may also help them cope psychologically with their relative powerlessness in the new Congress, after years of Republican domination.
Their reactions so far are very short-sighted politically, and media culture ignorant. They take their huff and puff conservative stands today presuming that if these stands prove unpopular later, they can count on "public amnesia" about their positions taken today to enable them to move to the correct side of those issues in other ways later, when and if it should it become necessary.
However, the "public amnesia" phenomenon on which they continue to depend no longer exists. If it still did exist, John McCain might have won the election.
It was once the rule, but no more. Now, the Internet and search engines and the 24 hour news cycle have vaporized this concept. Every political word uttered in public today is recorded, often in video, and commented upon. All the news reports, articles, blog posts, etc., about most public people and topics are available instantaneously. The net means voters can find out quickly and easily if your political pronouncements and voting record are consistent or if they change over time. New young voters and reformed cynics, energized by Mr. Obama's election, will stay interested in, informed about, and engaged in political life.
In the campaigns leading to the 2010 elections, sixteen months from now, the voters won't care why they did these things, but the Democrats will be sure that John and Jane Q will remember that the Republican Party, and the Republican incumbent in their district, obstructed hope and recovery resources at a time when these are desperately needed and in short supply. Regardless of the country's economic condition in 2010, many who are being, and still will be, hurt by the depression will remember, and Republicans will be blamed for obstructing the path back to prosperity.
And the public will punish the Republicans further. Political suicide, anyone?
Thursday, January 29, 2009