Risky Game: Obstruction and Obstinence in the Age of Obama

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Editor's Note: Hi everyone, please welcome Trevor LaFauci, our latest addition to the TPV team. He is a high school teacher in San Diego, CA, and is also a prolific writer for Politicus USA. I am so happy to have him on board, and I'm sure the whole community will be, too. - Spandan

History is one big pendulum and those who fail to see this are doomed to fail.

For a democracy to succeed, you need a two-party system.  For those of us who have followed politics closely the last few years, sometimes this idea seems distant and remote.  When you have one major political party blocking practically all legislation in order to block the agenda of a sitting president, it seems like it the two-party system has failed.  And yes, it has failed albeit temporarily.  However, in the long run a healthy democracy needs to have two major political parties competing in order to create a national dialogue about where the country is and should be.  Ideally, conversations are held and compromise is made in order find the common ground between the two parties.  Once common ground is established it then leads to future legislation with a gradual bit of give and take from both political parties before the legislation goes into effect.

Believe it or not, today's two major political parties are not that far off in terms of some of the overarching ideas regarding the future of our country.  Both parties would like to see our broken immigration system fixed.  Both parties would like to lower abortion rates in this country.  Both parties would like to protect their citizens by having a strong military and national defense.  Both parties would like to decrease unemployment through the creation of new jobs programs.  Both parties would like to see education used as a tool to improve the lives of our nation's children.  Both parties would like to see other nations look to the United States as a model for the world to follow in the 21st century.

These are the things that both parties agree on.  However, the gap between addressing these issues has become wider than at any time in our nation's history.  This problem arose right after the inauguration of Barack Obama as President.  Republicans already knew that Obama was going to be seen as a transformational figure simply due to his election alone.  They feared that should he not only should he be elected but also be an effective leader then it was a double whammy for the party and could essentially lead to the party's demise.  It was decided early on that this could not happen and that was why every effort was made by Republicans to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

For that to happen, the modern Republican Party chose to take the exact opposite position as the Democratic Party in hopes that this widening ideological gap would prevent any new legislation from getting passed.  During the time frame that the Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate and controlled the House of Representatives, the 111th Congress was extremely efficient.  It was during this time that The Recovery Act was passed, 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' was repealed, combat operations in Iraq were terminated, a new START treaty was ratified, and the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.  Recall that the Affordable Care Act was made into law ONLY because the Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate and needed all 60 votes with all 40 Republican senators voting against the ACA.

It was at this point when Republicans got scared.  They knew they had to shake up the political scene and somehow fire up their base.  With the ACA being years away from implementation and there being a slow recovery despite the passage of The Recovery Act, Republican kingpins Charles and David Koch with the help of lobbyists from big tobacco decided to whip up Conservative voters with something that everybody hates:  Taxes.  It was with this faux outrage that brought us the Tea Party, a group born out of concern over taxes but eventually hijacked by extreme Conservatives whose views on social issues would clash with those of the American public.

With control of the lower chamber, Republicans could now officially get back to their task at hand of making Barack Obama a one-term president.  The American Jobs Act was stalled despite the fact that unemployment was still above 8%.  Republican intransigence nearly led to a government shutdown in April of 2011.  Then, the granddaddy of them all:  The August debt ceiling crisis where America had its credit rating downgraded not because of its financial situation but because of its inability of Congress to agree on basic matters such as paying bills we as a nation had already incurred.  Republicans, of course, were quick to blame this downgrade on Barack Obama.

With the 112th Congress being the least productive in history it seemed as if Republicans really did have a shot at unseating Barack Obama.  The ACA, despite being ruled constitutional, still remained a controversial piece of legislation.  Unemployment was still over 8%.  The worst of the recession was over, but the economy was growing at a much slower pace than was needed giving Republicans the chance to coin the phrase "the Obama recovery".  Voters were discouraged that Obama hadn't been able to sufficiently change the culture of Washington, D.C.  It seemed as if Republicans could win back the White House if they selected the right nominee.

Instead they nominated Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama won in a landslide.  Which meant that Republicans had failed in their mission to make him a one-term president.  But, Republicans still controlled Congress which meant they could now make Barack Obama a lame duck president.  Despite the massacre at Sandy Hook, Senate Republicans refused to pass a measure for expanding background checks on firearms despite being overwhelmingly supported by the American people.  In an historically bad miscalculation, they believed that shutting down the government in October of 2013 in ransom for not implementing the Affordable Care Act would be seen as heroic.  They were gravely mistaken and 62% of people blamed the shutdown on Republicans.  Republicans would come to find out that the American public did not approve of shutting down the government to prevent its citizens from getting health care.

All of this brings us to the present day.

Republicans remain against everything that Barack Obama is for.  Despite a bi-partisan immigration bill being passed in the Senate, congressional Republicans refuse to bring the bill for a vote on the House floor.  In addition, congressional Republicans have refused to bring up the issue of raising the minimum wage, an idea central to Barack Obama's 2014 state of the union address.  The minimum wage is another key issue with public support behind it.  Polls have shown that 76% of people support raising the minimum wage making it a popular issue and one that Democratic candidates will be sure to run on for the 2014 midterm elections.

For the short-term, it appears like the Republican obstructionism is working.  However, no matter how the duration of Barack Obama's presidency pans out, Republicans have painted themselves into a very difficult corner.  To be against something is good politics, until that something can vote.  Republican obstructionism at the national level has put several key demographics squarely in the Democrats corner including low-income workers, immigrants, and minorities.  These key groups have traditionally voted democratic, but recent events have solidified this voting bloc for at least a generation.  In addition, those who have used the health care online marketplaces either via state websites or Healthcare.gov are now a new group added to the Democrats corner.  Tucked away at the end of the federal website is an option to register to vote.  For those rural families in traditionally red states like Kentucky, it must be quite a surprise to learn that Democrats aren't as bad as they seem.

The ultimate Republican endgame might very well being something they feared:  Barack Obama might very well end up being a transformational figure.  However, it won't necessarily be his policies that will earn him that legacy.  Instead, it will be the massive voting coalition that Democrats will have been able to assemble due to Republican politicians ostracizing everyone but their own base.  The current GOP base is 87% white.  The average Fox News viewer is 68 years old.  The country is growing more progressive on social issues, something that the Democratic Party has figured out and has quickly hopped on board.  With these numbers and the huge generational shifts that are up and coming, it becomes apparent that Republicans have gambled and lost their entire bet to the house.

The White House, to be more specific.

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