Why would Republicans work with the president? The electorate just rewarded them for two years of obstruction.
Somebody should tell John Boehner that, for all the Republicans’ impressive Election Day victories — and they were impressive — his party won only the lower of the two houses in Congress.
Somebody should tell President Obama the same thing.
You’d never know, in the wake of the election results and the subsequent Republican crowing, that Democrats retain control of the White House and the Senate. The GOP rules the House of Representatives, which gives them just one out of the three branches of the federal government. (OK, two out of four if you count the Supreme Court.)
But still, you’d think there had been a coup or something, what with GOP talk of repealing health care reform and extending tax cuts for the richest Americans and limiting Obama to one term in office.
That final objective was given by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as his overriding goal this coming term. So, tough break to any Democrats in Kentucky who hoped their senior senator might be interested in representing all of the state’s citizens.
Republicans are certainly playing to type in the wake of their electoral success — overstating, overreaching and insisting they don’t have to compromise with the president, the president has to compromise with them. It is reminiscent of 1994, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich requested network television time to address the nation on the status of his party’s Contract with America following the first 100 days of the Republican Congress — as if he were the co-president and the contract were a policy, as opposed to a political, initiative. (CBS and CNN fell for it.)
Then-President Clinton was left to wanly counter that he was still “relevant.” Fortunately for him and his party, he grew a spine and proved it. Which is what the current Democrat occupying the Oval Office will need to do if he wants to frustrate the McConnells of the political world.
Obama’s day-after-elections press conference, in which he was simultaneously contrite and evasive, was not a strong first step. He was asked three times about whether the vote was a referendum on his policies. He talked about “stuff coming at folks fast and furious.” Like health care reform, right Mr. President?
“A recovery package,” Obama said, ticking off items.
And health care reform?
“What we had to do with respect to the banks ...”
And health care reform?
“What we had to do with respect to the auto companies.”
He wouldn’t utter the words. It took a fourth reporter to raise the issue.
It’s no secret that Republicans made the decision — the political decision — to oppose any effort to improve the health care system so they could then run on the issue. That’s their prerogative, but let’s call it what it is: Putting politics ahead of the American people.
And that’s what Obama should keep in mind when he says, as he did at that press conference, “I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.”
There will be very little moving forward together, whether Obama acknowledges it publicly or not. The next two years will be one long health care debate. Why would Republicans work with the president? The electorate just rewarded them for two years of obstruction.
When Mitch McConnell says he wants to limit Obama to one term, I think, at least he’s being honest. When Obama says he looks forward to working with the same Republicans who seldom provide him a single vote — and whose chief objective is foiling his reelection — well, I’m not sure what to think.
Contact Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.