Wednesday, November 03, 2010
When "YES, WE CAN!" becomes "NO, YOU CAN'T!"
The most disappointing this about last night's election results were just how predictable they were.
Across the United States, disgruntled voters ticked the boxes for Republican candidates exactly as the media expected them to - all in a protest at what they viewed as the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration's performance.
"We were promised 'hope' and 'change'" they complained, "and all we've had from our smooth-talking president is 'that's not quite what we wanted' and 'it won't happen overnight.'"
But you know what? That's exactly what he promised.
Far too many voters bought into the bullshit about Obama - either the 'he's a socialist' hyperbole from the right wing, or the equally asinine 'hope and change' crap from the left. The majority of American voters seemed to think he was the second coming or the anti-Christ, when in fact Obama's always been a fiercely moderate pragmatist as equally frusted with Washington as we are.
One of the most memorable passages from his manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, outlined the cynical standoff in Washington. He complained at how the Democrats in Congress would spend four years bitterly shooting down any proposed legislation from the Republicans - and when the balance shifted to their favor, the Republicans would spend the next four years doing exactly the same thing to the Democrats. Nothing ever got accomplished.
And that's exactly what happened over the course of the past two years.
President Obama was elected on a rousing cry of 'YES, WE CAN!' and the Republican party responded by making sure that they gave a united screech of 'NO, YOU CAN'T' towards anything and everything the Obama administration proposed.
The reason I'm so frustrated with the election results is not because I'm a liberal or a democrat - it's because the Republicans have done nothing to deserve their success. They pulled out all the stops over the last two years to ensure Obama could accomplish nothing, and then complained about his lack of progress. There was an almost religious fervor to it - Obama couldn't so much as blow his nose without some smug Republican calling a filibuster.
And as for the Democrats - I can understand their frustration with Obama. When they swooped into power on the cusp of the 'hope and change' mantra, they had the power to accomplish anything. And what happened? Obama did exactly what he promised he'd do; both in The Audacity of Hope and during his election campaign. He genuinely tried to reach out to the Republican party and soften the partisan politics that quagmire congress.
And the fact is, he did a lousy job of it.
Instead of striking when the iron was hot, and forcing legislation through with the backing of a buoyant majority, he stepped back and offered the Republicans an olive branch. They took that opportunity to stall, delay, sabotage and stop legislation until the momentum was gone and all hope of passing the bill was lost.
Obama fell for this crap time and time again.
And in the GOP's defense, Obama's bipartisan efforts were half-hearted. When he approached Republicans about supporting health care legislation, or stimulus spending, he didn't offer them much in the way of compromise. Obama left it too easy for the Republicans to say 'no' and that's exactly what they did. Real compromise would have left them looking bad for rejecting it.
So nothing got accomplished, just like always happens in Washington. The atmosphere of 'hope and change' turned to one of apathy and frustration. The Republicans rubbed their hands together in glee - reveling in the effortless rewards for simply saying 'no' for twenty four months straight.
And now what?
More of the same.
With a Republican majority, President Obama's ambitions are scuppered. They'll shoot him down at every opportunity. Yet likewise, the Democratic party will ensure that any positive legislation the Republicans propose is debated, derailed and eventually deconstructed until - like everything else in Washington - it's meaningless and mediocre.
In all honesty, it's neither the Republicans or Democrats fault this time - it's ours.
Voters hit the polls last night, demanding change. Instead, they gave a stamp of approval to another term of the same old shit from the same old politicians. Perhaps the Tea Partiers were the smartest of all of us. Nobody rational could stand their candidates or their asinine ideas - but at least they were supporting something new, idealistic and ambitious.
Those are three things the senate and congress will remain sadly bereft of.