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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Bad Neighbors

Suppose you just moved into a neighborhood. You decide to throw a party and you invite your neighbors from next door. They get drunk, pee in your potted plants, chase your dog away, call you names, and hit on your wife. Here's the question; are you going to invite them back?

I'm willing to bet your answer is no. Those people are freakin' nuts and the last time you tried to get together with them, it turned out to be a big disaster. You're not sure what that smell is, but you doubt you're ever getting it out of your couch. This is the position Barack Obama finds himself in with Republicans. His big "post-partisan" neighborhood get-together didn't work out the way he thought it would -- mostly because some of the people in the neighborhood are dicks.

Yet, in a Washington Post piece about how Obama's going to have to reconcile the diversity within his own party, Greg Sargent found this nugget:

Eric Cantor...GOP leaders complain that the phone calls and White House invitations have slacked off -- perhaps because Obama's early efforts to woo Republicans yielded few votes.

"I think that in the beginning they seemed a lot more willing to go in and engage with us," said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.


"I asked Cantor spokesperson Joe Pounder if this was the real view of House GOP leaders," Sargent reports. "He argued that while Obama engaged at the outset -- watching the Super Bowl with GOPs, for instance -- there were now multiple cases where Republicans had been snubbed."

Imagine that.





It's no surprise that Obama has ideological diversity to deal with within his own party. In a two-party system, both parties are -- by necessity -- coalition parties. They represent the interests of many different constituencies. With the Republican party shrinking, the Democratic party necessarily grows and those constituencies previously represented by the GOP find themselves in the Democratic coalition now. The fact that Republicans are currently driving out the ideologically impure doesn't help their coalition any -- in fact, if they succeed the way most seem to want to, they won't be a coalition anymore. The Republican party will be one wingnut constituency standing alone. The party of Lincoln would be kicking out the labor-friendly Lincoln these days and, as much as they idolize their idealized version of him, Reagan would be too far to the left for them. Teddy Roosevelt was unceremoniously disowned by the party years ago and the name Eisenhower is never spoken.

While this has consequences for Obama and the Democrats, it also has consequences for the Republicans. As the Democratic party grows, the Republican party becomes more and more homogeneous. President Obama's post-partisan dreams fell apart when confronted with the remnants of the GOP -- they aren't interested in bipartisanship, they're interested in ideological purity. If Obama thought he could find compromise, he found an uncompromising party waiting for him.

Of course, the idea that the GOP would begin to complain about this is laughable. It is, after all, their own damned fault. They spending every waking minute calling Obama a socialist, accusing him of siding with terrorists, and floating seriously insane conspiracy theories. When Michele Bachmann says she won't cooperate with the census because she's worried that people are going to be rounded up and put into camps, you've kind of got a situation where compromise is impossible. Either they're convinced Obama is the devil or they want you to be convinced of it. Either way, they slap his hand away every time he reaches across the aisle. To be surprised that he's stopped reaching is either incredibly stupid or typically dishonest.

So Obama's bipartisanship will have to be of a sort of historical kind; he's going to have to build bridges between the more liberal Democrats and Democrats who would've been Republicans in previous years. His bipartisanship is going to have to be in reconciling the different de facto parties within his own coalition. If Republicans are finding themselves shut out of those meetings, it's because they've locked themselves out and thrown the key in the Potomac.

-Wisco


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