What Obama could do with a functioning Congress

It's more or less a truism that some on the Left expected Barack Obama to be a liberal George W. Bush: someone not overly concerned with the niceties of democratic governance in order to push an agenda to the left of most Americans. You know, the whole "ends and means" debate: our ends are noble, so the means don't matter.

Of course, he didn't turn out to be that Leftist wish. Nowhere was this more evident than in the healthcare debate, where, unlike the previous Democratic president, he left it up to the Congress to actually do its job and legislate, within broad parameters he laid out. He knew something which seemed to escape the Clintons: Congress members don't like being told what to do, and don't like being presented a plan with minimal input from them. By bringing in at least the Democratic caucus as stakeholders, Obama ensured that something would be passed; his effort was in that the legislation which took shape would conform to his key standards.

So, yes, the public option, which would have helped precious few people, was jettisoned in the interest of getting to 218 in the House and 60 in the Senate. And the howls from certain sectors of the Left were more deafening than the screeches from the Right. When both Left and Right were wailing to "kill the bill", and working in concert to do just that, you know you've entered an alternate reality.

Now that Obamacare is shaping up to be a roaring success, some of those who screamed the loudest on "our" side have conveniently forgotten their roles in 2009. And they've certainly forgotten the discontent they stoked, leading to the GOP landslide in 2010.

Yes, that. Because Obama and the Democrats were actually governing, rather than handing out ponies and rainbows, many on the Left decided to wage a campaign in 2010—not against Republicans, but a season of long knives against Democrats. And we've lived with the results for the past 3 years.

If voters had accepted that politics is the art of the possible, instead of punishing Barack Obama for things he never promised, what could he have done in these 3 years?

For one, our credit rating would never have been in jeopardy. Budgets would have passed, the debt ceiling would not have been held hostage, and government would have proceeded in its usually tortuous but functioning way. Instead, for the first time in US history, a political party put the full faith and credit of the country on the chopping block, all in an effort to extract... well, they were never clear on what they wanted from Obama, but he had to give in on something. Fortunately, the President is made of sterner stuff than the fairweather voters of 2010, and after much struggle has ended hostage taking as a practice of governance. But just imagine if...

With a Democratic Congress, we would have expanded on the Recovery Act—which worked—with a jobs package. And this jobs package wasn't merely make-work. It was geared to fix our crumbling infrastructure, an infrastructure greatly needed to keep pace in the 21st century economy. That the economy is doing reasonably well is a testament to Obama's tireless work; but without an entire house of Congress in the grips of Obama Derangement Syndrome, we could be so much further ahead, helping both here at home and the broader world economy. But I'm sure Democrats learned a lesson in 2010.

Comprehensive immigration reform would be a done deal without the petulance of 2010. Businesses want it. Social justice groups want it. Majorities of Democrats and independents want it. But GOP leadership knows that those 11 million potential citizens are not likely to vote for them. So best to keep them at bay for as long as they can until... Well, again, they're not clear. The undocumented are not going anywhere. The GOP's hold on the House won't last forever. It will happen. And when it does, the GOP's future is far from rosy. But a message had to be sent in 2010, so there you go.

With a functioning Congress, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have arguably gone more smoothly. The GOP House stripped most funding for its promotion. The 2010 elections also decimated Democrats on the state level; without that massacre, more states would have set up their own exchanges. Again, the fact that Obamacare has been as much of a success as it is turning out to be is due to the Administration's tireless efforts. But that was energy which could have been spent in other ways if it didn't have to fight a two front war, both on the Left and Right.

I could go on for another 5,000 words, but I think the drift is clear. You get the government you vote for. But more clearly, you also get a government if you don't vote, usually one which you don't like. Pundits and pollsters are saying that there's another "enthusiasm gap" for the 2014 elections. Which, with the history of the past 3 years is rather mindboggling. Obama was elected by a huge margin in 2012; where are those voters now?

There are times when I just feel like we get what we deserve. But that is what the opposition and their handmaidens want us to feel. They thrive in despair and dejection. And nothing upsets them more than the sunlight of hope.

So no f-bombs today. No angry words. Just a resolve to perform my duty as a citizen and have my voice heard at the ballot box. And to bring as many people as I can with me. That's all any of us can do.

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