Republicans refuse to work with Obama

By Jarrod Barry

“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win? I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”

This quote, reported by Politico, is attributed to a senior House Republican aide (who wished to remain anonymous) discussing President Obama’s newly proposed jobs plan. It’s a telling statement because it sums up succinctly the Republican frame of mind over for the past two and a half years.

Despite their claims to the contrary, Republicans have never been interested in working with the president. Their long-standing strategy since the president took office has been simple – unite together and stonewall everything Obama puts forth.

It doesn’t seem to matter what it is. If Obama suggests it, it’s an awful idea, reason be damned. Whether it’s something Republicans were originally for (see: Mandatory health insurance for all) or if Obama is willing to go against his own base in the name of controversy (see: Obama offering entitlement cuts in exchange for tax increases during the debt negotiations). The mind-set is just as the aide said: Why give him anything that could be construed as a win? Even if Republicans get something they want in the compromise, the president still gets the political points, and political points equal re-election.

Part of it is strategy. The GOP is great at creating and disseminating its talking points. Watch half a dozen Republican politicians and pundits on TV, and it’s frightening how every one of them gives a variation of the same argument, slightly rephrased. They can unify, repeat the same points over and over and hold the line against all debate. They’ve learned that if you repeat something enough, it becomes fact, empirical evidence aside. It’s an effective tactic Democrats have yet to master.

The other part comes from the Tea Party, whose presence has pushed the party further to the right. These days, to even hint that Obama might have an idea that even resembles “good” is to risk being labeled a “liberal,” or even worse, a “socialist.”

I thought this sort of strategy might die down some when Republicans took control of Congress last year. After all, they’re the majority now. Certainly they’ll try to bring forth actual ideas rather than just shooting down the president’s, right?!

Oh, how silly I was.

What bothers me more isn’t the Republicans’ political strategy, but the way Obama has responded to it. Sometimes, it feels like Obama isn’t willing to step up and fight.

It feels weird for me to rail against compromise. After all, a democracy can’t function without it, as we’ve clearly begun to see. But I wonder, how do you compromise when the other side’s singular goal is to destroy you?

More and more, it feels like Obama backs away from fights. When he wanted to bring Guantanamo Bay prisoners into the U.S. to charge them in court, Republicans threw a fit.

They complained it would be too dangerous to try them in Manhattan, and that no prison – not even a supermax prison, from which no prisoner has ever escaped – would be secure enough.

So in the end, rather than keeping a campaign promise to close Guantanamo and end this weird “can’t try them but can’t let them go purgatory” we have going on, he backed down.

He gave up his attempts to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He’s capitulated, over and over, on budget cuts without getting an increase in the capital gains tax or closure of oil and natural gas tax loopholes. And last week, he backed away from plans to strengthen smog standards, something the EPA recommendation panel unanimously endorsed as being crucial to public health.

And so, I’m interested in seeing how this job package plays out. It has a lot of things the Republicans favor, such as tax breaks for small businesses and cuts in the payroll tax businesses pay. It should, in theory, be an easy sell.

But with many Republicans afraid of “handing Obama a win”, many might oppose it anyway for strategy’s sake. This brings about a question some people have been asking: Do the Republicans even want the economy to improve?

Some have seriously been asking this. It seems ridiculous, but there’s some logic behind it. After all, the economy will likely be the next election’s biggest deciding factor. If it doesn’t improve, Obama’s re-election is in jeopardy. Obama shoulders responsibility either way. If it stays poor, he gets blamed; if it improves, he gets credit.

It’s hard to deny a depressed economy works in the Republicans’ favor politically. The way some talk, they’d be just as happy to let the economy stay sluggish into next November, bettering their chances of victory.

I, for one, don’t subscribe to this theory. Ideological differences and political strategies, I still believe that Republicans truly want to improve the economy, even if they don’t always seem to be offering many legitimate alternative solutions (abolishing the EPA? That’s the best you’ve got?).

And they can show it by actually working with the president on this new jobs plan, instead of stalemating him like they’ve done thus far.

Go on, Republicans. Prove me right.

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2 Comments on “Republicans refuse to work with Obama

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