A major complaint of both of the major parties in the United States has been the persistent legislative gridlock, which has been the case since the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election. While it is demonstrably true that the Republicans are not terribly enthused with the prospect of compromise at this point, to act as though that were somehow surprising or unique would be strikingly dishonest. The fundamental issue is that one of America’s largest seat swings in a midterm election came through for the Tea Party freshman of the Republican Party, specifically because they promised their constituents that they would filibuster before appropriating another unnecessary dime.
In the election prior, the Bush presidency was winding down on top of a recession. The Republican Party didn’t have a lot positive on the horizon, as it was a fairly safe bet that if the election was coming framed as a referendum on a recession that happened under their watch, they were going to get creamed. And, they did. The Democrats, who had controlled the House and the Senate since the 2006 election, built upon those gains and captured the oval office.
The next two years in America came with what may have been the most tempestuous flurry of social experimentation since the New Deal. Later reports would look back on the effect of such programs as “Cash for Clunkers” to find that the most effective part of it was the cleverness of the name. Unless, of course, the intent was to lose money. The means by which the Affordable Care Act gained passage were so offensive to its dissidents, that even to this day its repeal is a stated goal of many Republican Party candidates. Rather unlikely that anyone is going to be forgetting Nancy “You have pass it so then you can find out what it means” Pelosi. The kicker is, it is still an issue that gains traction. Cognizant of the frustration of the American people, President Obama did something that had not been done in all the years before and since the television camera was invented: He criticized sitting Supreme Court Justices in remarks at the State of the Union address. For reference, the Supreme Court exists to be the rock to the president’s scissors. Also, it is difficult to make the case that nine actual constitutional scholars made the wrong decision simply because it disagreed with the opinion of one self-professed constitutional scholar, especially when the court is basically split down the middle of party lines. That was a lot of friendly fire the liberal Justices took, and contributed to President Obama’s all-time record of shutouts suffered by the court.
In a way, it is the chickens coming home to roost. The confidence, some would say arrogance, with which that 2008 Democrat class took their offices blinded them to the necessity of compromise. Few of them had the rational caution to remember that they would not control both chambers and the executive office simultaneously in perpetuity. So in 2010, the Republican Party rode a 63-seat swing in the House of Representatives and, probably correctly, interpreted it as mandate from the people to intentionally forestall further grandiose spending with legislative gridlock. It was the will of the people, and the first time that North Carolina elected the Republican Party to both state chambers in 130 years.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the whole debacle, it bears mentioning something about leadership. Leadership is something you have to be comfortable with to run a nation. A few of the classic expectations of good leadership that Americans hold as cultural values include taking responsibility, leading by example, basically stuff along the line of not asking anyone else to do anything that a prospective leader would not to themselves. It is not a matter of the Republican Party having leadership and the Democrats not, ad nauseum. Marketing and polling just sort of happened to drive candidates along this morally downward trend. It costs half a soul just to nominate yourself for office.
Without any consideration of specific policy, however, the ultimate responsibility belongs to the president. The only president in American history who didn’t volunteer for the job was George Washington. If a person were to be fair in their judgement, the Republican Party has had its own issues with taking their share of responsibility, but then again, they were elected specifically to obstruct the Obama administration. For them to fail to do so would go against representing their constituency.
America has not passed a budget in a number of years. A 18-year-old who just cut themselves off of apron strings has to do a budget and live by it, or they end up not paying their bills and facing eviction. When a president is elected to the office, it is their job to compromise. America does not elect kings, it elects presidents. Presidents, as the title implies, preside over a government. The Republican Party are obstructing the remainder of President Obama’s legislative agenda because partisan gridlock is the closest thing that they can do to representing the will of their people.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Photo by Rene Schwietzke – flickr License