Thursday, January 28, 2010

Union Specific

I'll try to make this quick.

President Obama's State of the Union address last night was impressive overall: stirring yet completely conversational; overwhelmingly optimistic in its reaffirmation of the American ideal, yet acknowledging of the difficulties facing this country and its people; conciliatory to both Democrats and Republicans while still taking each party firmly to task. On this last subject, I've honestly never seen a president in my lifetime try so hard to create partisan amity -- with the understanding that we'll never overcome our current hardships without at least some measure of it -- only to have it spit back in his face at every turn.

As it stands now, the Republicans, who've turned obstinate group-think into a kind of art form, are never going to concede even an inch to Barack Obama. It's just that simple. Meanwhile, some on the progressive side continue to, ironically, take the same tack -- slamming the president over and over again because they feel he's somehow betrayed their Utopian ideals by not being liberal enough. When it comes to the latter group, I'll refer you to the latest piece in the Huffington Post by Cesca, who nailed it so flawlessly that I wish I'd been able to say what he said in exactly the same way. He perfectly addresses -- and blows big, gaping holes in -- the notion, espoused by people like Paul Krugman, that Obama has somehow "sold out" the progressive movement entirely. The reality is that Barack Obama remains one of the most progressive presidents this country has seen in the last century, and that should never be discounted or even diminished.

And that leads me to back to the Republicans -- the people the president is taking extraordinary pains to compromise with and offer concessions to, even at his own peril, because he once again understands that it's necessary for this country to work together as one to overcome the daunting challenges facing us right now. The response of conservatives to the State of the Union address was so laughably predictable you could've written it in your head even before Bob McDonnell took to a podium flanked by a black woman and an Asian-American guy to deliver the official GOP rebuttal. As usual, Republicans usurped credit for what they say were the most potent ideas pitched by Obama, claiming that they were, in fact, conservative ideas -- the implication being that even Obama realizes the Republicans are right so, really, why bother having him as president at all when Americans could have the real deal. But that's the point, and it's something that, again, progressives need to heed (and conservatives need to really get through their thick heads): Obama isn't a Republican. He's not a conservative, even though he may accept that certain conservative ideals can be good for the country.

One of the things I respect most about Barack Obama is what perpetually infuriates the extreme elements within both parties: They call him a centrist who in trying to please everyone can't please anyone. While I fully understand the dangers of taking the middle road, especially when your political enemies in the opposition party will always attack you because that's what they're programmed to do, deep-down most Americans want a president willing to represent all Americans. Granted, those who hate Barack Obama, the true lunatic fringe given a resonant voice by Fox News and talk radio, will likely never change their minds about him; the guy could reanimate the dessicated corpse of Ronald Reagan and together they could save a busload of unborn Christian fetuses from going over a cliff while singing I Love This Bar in two-part harmony and the Palin Nation still wouldn't stop calling him a socialist, Marxist, foreign, terrorist-loving whatever-the-hell. But the fact is that -- and how many times can I say this -- pipe dream or not, this country cannot rebound from its current crisis without some form of bipartisanship. It just can't be done.

Obama realizes this, and hopefully he convinced at least a few of his critics, and even more of the average Americans who don't already have a preconceived partisan opinion, to do the same. And if he didn't get through the people in the former group, let's hope the ones in the latter finally speak the hell up and put them in their place. Because our country can't afford to be hamstrung by stubborn ideologues for even one more day.

The train has to leave, with our without you on it.


Bill White said...

You owe me a huge Home Depot Homer bucket for me to throw up my beef stew, sausage links and cherry pie into.
Have you not read a word of what I wrote here?
Barack Hussein Nobama is the worst president in the world's history (more on that on my Christ-centered blog today).
Get yer head out of the sand and admit that this is a man who hates freedom and free markets. He wants to control every aspect of yer life.
Chez, Chez, Chez, you're such a young naive Secular Progressive who needs to find Sweet Baby Jesus and the Lord Almighty.
God Bless,

Peter L. Winkler said...

To call Pres. Obama the most progressive in history is ahistorical nonsense. FDR and then LBJ were the last two presidents who ushered in sweeping domestic programs that actually helped the majority of Americans who aren't rich. FDR - Social Security, legaizing colective bargaining, strong banking regulation. LBJ - Civil rights laws, Medicare, extending social welfare programs.

Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan and has not facilitated one significant domestic program for the non-wealthy.

Calling Obama progressive rapes the word of its meaning.

Spencer said...

" the guy could reanimate the dessicated corpse of Ronald Reagan and together they could save a busload of unborn Christian fetuses from going over a cliff while singing I Love This Bar in two-part harmony and the Palin Nation still wouldn't stop calling him a socialist, Marxist, foreign, terrorist-loving whatever-the-hell. "


MPP said...

Is it really 'obstinate groupthink' to agree? Republicans have banded together in the face of a (now deceased) supermajority to ensure the most odious legislation to their interests does not pass. Is it the fault of Republicans that Rahm Emanuel had to make a deal with almost every Senator on the (D) side of the aisle to get them to vote for the disgusting healthcare bill? Is it the fault of Republicans that Pelosi will be satisfied with nothing less than Marx's Manifesto? There are a lot of reasons to slam the Republicans, but their ability to stand firm in the face of defiance and struggle is not one of them: it's a point for the Democrats to LEARN from.

There is no way any President can represent all Americans, or even 75% of them. Not while issues like abortion, war, social welfare, health care, and guns pervade. Republicans took credit for some of his ideas because they are historically Republican ideas: increased offshore drilling, nuclear power, and capital gains tax cuts for example. The more cynical individual within me would say that he posited these ideas solely because he knew Pelosi and her cronies would block them. At least until November....

Love and cupcakes,
Your new commenter,

Alanna said...

I know "love + cupcakes" oh too well. Welcome, Mr. Avatar ;).

Chez said...

Well, welcome MMP, although I think you're more than a little off-base on a few things. I'm not a fan of Pelosi but bringing up the ridiculous charge of Marxism is just that: ridiculous.

The Republicans tend to band together and robotically get behind a set of leaders or talking point and stay there no matter what. While I appreciate the fact that this wins elections, it makes the average member of the GOP these days seemingly unable to think for him or herself. It's party line above all.

Now granted, the big problem with the Dems has always been that they can't seem to stay on-message simply because it's an inherent trait among the left that nobody can agree on crap because everyone has to prove how nuanced and analytical they are. I've always said, as you did, that the Democrats need to learn that the "greater good" among their interests would better be served by at least being able to come together and stay together in the face of their enemies -- as the Republicans do. But at some point there has to be a nod to bipartisanship; there have to be people willing to do what's good for the country rather than simply what's perceived to be good for his or her party.

All of that said, I want to say that it's obvious which side of the fence you're coming from, given that you seem to disagree with health care reform (or is it just the bill as it stands now?) and bring up several "culture war" issues. Or are you just speaking in academic terms? (If it's the latter, the idea of the GOP facing "defiance and struggle" is a little amusing.)

C NJ said...

A little problem with your optimistic viewpoint on the speech.

While it is natural to blame the GOP, history will record that democrats have owned all three branches of government and held the super majority during this time.

At some point, you have to own it.

Chez said...

Oh, I've already given the Democrats plenty of shit for wasting the mandate they were given and essentially doing nowhere near what they could've done with it.

Michael J. West said...

Peter L. Winkler, are you really going to use Afghanistan as a reason to deny Obama's progressivism, then turn around and praise LBJ's progressivism without even a mention of Vietnam?

MPP said...

I disagree with healthcare reform as an idea, but am so much more opposed to the idea of this terrible bill than even fully socialized healthcare. It's a pork spending laden abomination that is also a transfer payment to the insurance industry.

The GOP's struggle in 2009 politically is quite significant - simply because the Dems did not take advantage of owning both houses (w/ a supermajority) and the executive branch does not make it irrelevant.

Totally agree with Mr. West - LBJ is far more odious to me than he may be to Messrs. West and Winkler, but Vietnam is disgusting as compared to Afghanistan or even Iraq.

Love and cupcakes,

Anonymous said...

Sometimes Obama's speeches remind me of a scene in a Matthew McConaghy movie (U-571 I think, a CRAPPY movie, but) where, as a new officer and at some point during some crappy times, he gives this speech to the sub seamen, and thinks he's doing good by being honest, etc., and then his first mate or officer or whatever takes him aside and advises him how to be a real leader and what to say to motivate his men. I get that feeling with Obama. Like, he means well, but I don't want him to be nice and "honest" (if that makes sense), I want him to KICK ASS. Ya know?

Ref said...

Bipartisanship happens when men and women patriotically put loyalty to party aside in favor of loyalty to country. When one party refuses to compromise on any issue at all, it is not possible. It is time for the Democrats who, in the senate, represent about EIGHTY PER CENT OF THE FUCKING ELECTORATE to get some things done for the working people of America.

TheReaperD said...

Since the health care bill keeps coming up like a corpse in a flood, I'll wade in.

I'm a strong supporter of a single-payer system at this stage so, I'm on the opposite side of the issue as MPP, but I have to agree with him about this current health care bill. Since single-payer was never up for consideration, there were a few proposals I actually considered making the rest of the reeking bill worth holding my nose for:

1) Public option
2) Repealing insurance company anti-trust exemptions
3) Make it illegal to to disqualify or charge additional rates for individuals with preexisting conditions

Numbers one and two were ruled DOA by Senate Democrat Infiltrator Joe Lieberman. Now it looks like the third item will be struck down even if a Republican plays ball in the Senate. Without these three provisions and still requiring that most Americans purchase coverage, the "heath care" bill is nothing more than a taxpayer paid windfall for insurance companies.

At this stage, the insurance companies win whether the health care bill passes or not. I have to say that it's probably time to let the bill die and move on. The special interests have already won. Democrats were right when they said they had to get health care legislation passed quickly to have it passed at all (or passed with any meaning, at least).

I don't envy Obama at this point. It is likely that Republicans in the Senate will filibuster everything except must-pass spending bills. I don't know if he can get any other priorities passed even if Democrats move on. Still better than the years under Bush but, not by a lot.

I'm bitter.

Che Grovera said...

Been away for a couple of days -- an eternity-and-a-half in internet time -- and, in catching up, simply had to acknowledge the linguistic confection that Spencer already called out. That's why I'm a fan.