Both arms of Congress and the White House are currently controlled by conservatives (the White House control emanating not from its ideologically-challenged resident, but from the nest of ultra right-ring hooligans who have infested his ear). Since the presidential surprise of the election (admit it Conservatives, while many of you were hopeful, you were as shocked as everyone else when you awoke on November 9), many liberals have pledged to resist the new administration. My fear is that resistance will be confused with the politics of no.
resist: verb re·sist \ri-ˈzist\ to exert oneself so as to counteract or defeat.
I count myself among those who want to counteract and defeat ignorant, selfish or dangerous propositions championed by any politician. In fact, isn’t resistance to policies and legislation that are contrary to our political beliefs one of the two main reasons we align ourselves with a political party (the other being the actual promotion of policies and legislation that we support)?
Our congressional representation currently operates via a multi-party system, which provides additional “checks and balances” within a branch of government already designed to protect us from run-away power. In theory, ideas supported by the majority of Americans (unless bridled by specific protections otherwise afforded by the Constitution), should be the ideas that are successfully integrated into law. However, when the electorate is so divided, it can and does result in a gridlock that prevents any progress. Gridlock is not new and is not always undesirable. The lack of forward motion can actually be a good thing if the movement would take the country over a cliff. But for nearly a decade now there has been a serious obstacle to any movement; “the politics of no”.
Just after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, GOP House Whip Eric Cantor made it clear to his caucus that their sole responsibility for the foreseeable future was to make sure that Obama could not point to any bipartisan successes. And who can forget the announcement from the Senate minority leader in 2010, No Second Term?
The requests from those two “leaders” were heeded. While Republicans had just achieved (with Democratic help), a huge Wall Street bailout at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, they unanimously rejected Obama’s Recovery Act offered within a week of inauguration. It passed anyway and is considered by many to have saved the U.S. from economic catastrophe, helping both progressives and conservatives alike (see Stimulus Act Was a Success and Stimulus Program Was a Smashing Success).
Republicans united to oppose the Affordable Care Act, even though it was largely based on Romney Care in Massachusetts, addressed many of the elements that conservatives had cited as unacceptable in Clinton’s proposed 1994 reform package and solicited input from the other party. It also passed without Republican support, but how much better could it have been (be?) if all parties had worked together?
There were other examples of the right digging their heals into the ground attempting (and sometimes succeeding), to thwart any action that could cast the president in a positive light, even if the action would have benefited their own constituents. Ironically, they did not prevent Barack Obama from being re-elected.
True to his original campaign word, President Obama made attempts to include “the other side”, but they were rebuffed. Since neither the current Potus nor any incumbent Republican that ran again in 2016 claimed to foster bipartisanship, it is not surprising that they feel no need to now include Democrats in decision-making. That attitude does not, however, excuse Democrats from trying to contribute (as an excellent case in point, see Senator Claire McCaskill is Stunned).
We have a representative form of government, from Dog Catcher to President, and we all have the opportunity and obligation to not only keep our representatives informed of our views, but also to keep them accountable, to let them know we’re watching…and not just on election day. I implore liberal voters to request that their representatives and senators resist any and all actions that may be counter to their values, but I also ask them to request compromise and cooperation where ever possible on those issues that would benefit all citizens, regardless of who may receive the credit. Democratic leaders should not be guilty of the childish pouting and breath-holding behavior that we’ve witnessed from Republicans for the last eight years.
“Just Say No” didn’t work for Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign in the eighties and it hasn’t worked for Republicans in the new millennium. It’s ineffective and destructive and as tempting as it may be to make sure no one can attribute anything good to the existing Potus, I firmly believe that he will do and say enough on his own to ensure his demise. Besides, there are 321.4 million folk who need all of our legislators to be bigger than that.