Monday, November 10, 2014

Can Compromise Emerge From Dysfunction?

Now that the mid-terms are over our elected leaders must now consider the task of governing. In the aftermath of the Republicans’ resounding victory we have heard politicians on both sides of the aisle echoing the same sentiment: “The American
people have sent us a message. They want us to get things done.”

The question is…will they? Will congress move forward in a bi-partisan manner to do the peoples’ business or will we see more of the partisan obstruction and gridlock that has plagued Washington over the past several years.

If this first week is any indication I’d say we are likely to see more of the latter.

Republicans won this election with one common message: “We are not Obama.” They offered nothing in the way of substance; just the message that all the things that make people anxious are Obama’s fault. Ebola, Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA, the VA, ISIS, Syria, Iran, the botched rollout of the ACA, flat wages etc… all skillfully laid at the president’s feet. They offered nothing in the way of a substantive plan to address these issues. Now, faced with the prospect of actually governing, the lack of a plan moving forward is painfully obvious. There is no plan because there is no consensus within the Republican Party. The biggest hurdle Republicans face is finding consensus within their ranks.

Democrats are not much better. While Republicans were declaring: “We are not Obama” Democrats were responding with “Neither are we.” Instead of sending a strong populace message in support of raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, amnesty for “Dreamers” or any of the other widely successful policies of their party’s leader, they ran away like rats off a sinking ship. Now that the election is lost Democrats are back to supporting their core policy values while blowing off the loss as a simple case of typical low liberal voter turnout for a mid-term election. Democrats find themselves trying to explain to voters why they are back on the Obama bandwagon after having abandoned it in the weeks leading up to the mid-terms.

From where I sit this dysfunction within the parties make governing all but impossible. Recent events on two key issues make this point.

ACA open enrollment begins on November 15th. Today the administration opened up the website to give potential buyers a sneak peak at the plans that are available. Speaker Boehner wants to repeal the ACA and has pledged to makes repeal one of the first orders of business for the newly anointed Republican majority. Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that any notion of repeal is nonsense. McConnell knows that he doesn’t have the 60 votes he needs to pass repeal in the senate. He also understands that even if he did, a president named Obama is not going to sign bill repealing a law called “Obamacare.” And McConnell understands that the votes aren’t there to overturn a presidential veto. But members of McConnell’s caucus vehemently disagree. Senators Cruz and Mike Lee agree with Boehner that repeal of the law is critical in establishing their newly awarded authority. Cruz has promised no end of obstructionist measures if his demands aren’t met including a government shutdown. McConnell has state flatly that there will not be any government shutdowns. It’s hard to see where any form of “governing” emerges from this internal squabble.

Immigration reform is another topic where there is vehement disagreement between the parties and within the caucuses themselves. Democrats want amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants. They differ on which ones. Republicans understand the need for reform but want no part of amnesty or a path to citizenship. The president has promised to use his executive authority to implement reforms by the end of the year. Over the past year the president has made several similar promises but failed to deliver. Republicans have threatened all sorts of repercussions if the president acts on his own; from defunding any reform measure the president might issue to refusing to confirm his recent appointment to Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. The fact is that all Republicans need to do is pass an immigration bill and send it to the president to sign. Once the bill is signed into law it supersedes any executive order the president may have issued. But Republicans can’t agree among themselves on a bill. While the president procrastinates and Republicans squabble tens of millions of Latino and Asian voters are watching; deciding for themselves which dysfunctional party will best represent their interests in 2016
Republicans are really good at staying on message…but they have no plan. Democrats are sound on the issues that matter to most Americans…but they stink at getting their message across.

Are we to believe that from this dark cloud of dysfunction a beacon of compromise will emerge?

I just don't see it.

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