Monday, November 8, 2010

Campaign 2012

It’s all over but the shouting. Actually, the shouting hasn’t really stopped, as the GOP and its Conservative/Tea Party cousins have already embarked on Campaign 2012 to make Barack Obama a one-term president. In the two-year run-up, they are determined to block any meaningful attempts at bi-partisanship and will try to roll back achievements of his first two years in office.

The first job of any politician is to get elected. The second job is to get re-elected. The third job is a source of contention. It is within that conflict we may distinguish leaders from parasites of the public trust. The countervailing forces confronting a politician are: a) faithfully representing his or her constituency (even if it is backward and bigoted), or, b) advancing the welfare of the country even if it runs against the grain of the voters who elected him or her to office and might mean defeat at the next election.

Whether written by JFK or Ted Sorensen, Profiles in Courage is a book that should be required reading for all who serve in government. Published in 1955, the book, in the words of Wikipedia, profiles eight U.S. senators “who crossed party lines and/or defied the public opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions.”

Obviously I disagree with the majority, if not all, of the “thinking” of the Republican/ Conservative/Tea Party. They have a right to their beliefs. What I object to is their disdain for the process of government, of compromise, their willingness to obstruct responsible stewardship of our land and people. Is there no one of principle in the Republican/ Conservative/Tea Party, no one with sufficient patriotism to put country ahead of conceit?

Equally fervent is my disappointment with the Democratic Party and its willingness to cave in. Instead of fighting brass knuckle tactics with equal measure, Democrats shrink from their responsibility. The failure of the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress has been its inability to inform the American public. They allowed the opposition to frame the debate on health care, financial bailouts, Bush tax cut extension and other hot button issues. Instead they supplied a “could’ve been worse if we didn’t do anything” message.

Obama et al have no time to waste. They must start now lauding provisions of Obamacare, provisions that guarantee coverage for children post-college, that restrict insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The Midwest is full of companies dependent on the auto industry. Without the bailout of GM and Chrysler, millions would have lost jobs. Democrats permitted the Republican/ Conservative/Tea Party to tarnish the benefits of the bailout program. Yes, it’s hard to defend an economy that tanked under your predecessor and has not responded to the financial stimulus package. But there have been success stories. Aside from the rebounds at GM and Chrysler, the bank bailouts will not cost anywhere near the billions originally forecast.

The American voter is fickle, shifting allegiance seemingly at whim, not sufficiently patient to “stay the course” beyond any one congressional election cycle. The next two years will be hell for those who care about responsible government. Republican/ Conservative/Tea Party spokesmen have vowed to downsize government. Democrats will fight to salvage consumer, social, workplace and environmental protections, but will be hard pressed to succeed. At the state level, given the new dominance of the Right, there will be massive changes. It is hard to imagine our country maintaining its infrastructure, educational system, and quality of life.

Perhaps that’s for the long term best, for without first hand exposure to what life in a Boehner-McConnell-Palin world would be, Americans might be deluded in 2012 into voting for a continuation of a government of “NO.”

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