Well, it’s been about 3 and a half months since I wrote anything for this forum. That’s due to a combination of factors including post election fatigue and just being busy with life, but it also reflects a disgust with the state of politics in this country.
There’s an old radical saying; “if elections changed anything, they’d be illegal.” I’m not usually a subscriber to this idea (imagine how different the trajectory of this country would have been if Al Gore won 800 more votes in Florida in 2000), but I do think that the differences between one party and another winning any given election often make only incremental changes in the country.
Jonathan Alter in his new book, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, makes an argument that 2008 was a very significant election in American political history, but this argument is based not on Obama’s own agenda, but on the reactionary agenda of the Republicans who sought to unseat him. As Alter argues, if the Republicans were to take the Presidency and the House, it would have represented a significant rightward shift in American politics. The mere fact of Obama’s re-election insures that the Republican agenda to use the budget crisis to force radical changes to the social safety net is not going to happen. Rachel Maddow made this point beautifully in her MSNBC promo about the aftermath of the election.
We are not going to have a Supreme Court that overturns Roe versus Wade.
We are not going to repeal health reform.
We are not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.
We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married.
We are not eliminating the Department of Energy.
We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not vetoing the DREAM Act.
We had the choice to do that and we said ‘no.’”
I love this ad and I’m so proud of the small part I played in Obama’s election, but at a certain point, you want all of your effort to do a little more than stop the Republicans from enacting their agenda. I don’t want to harken back to some era of good feelings that never existed, but when you have a Tea Party beholden House whose reelection depends on demonizing the president of the United States and looks at compromise as a bad word, that’s not going to make for much legislative progress, even on an issue where large majorities of Americans support a specific policy. If there was any doubt about this, the epic Congressional failures of the sequester and the push for even the most incremental steps on gun control should have extinguished it.
So, I’m feeling a little complacent these days. The mere election of Obama insures that the Republicans won’t be able to fundamentally change the country, but the election of a Republican Congress means that we need to get used to the idea that not much is going to get done in this country for the next two years and any progress is going to come slowly if it comes at all. There’s still a chance that the Republicans may begin to understand that they are in real danger of having the ridiculous failure of the sequester be their most significant legislative accomplishment and will overcome their refusal to compromise with Obama, but I’d say it’s an outside chance at this point. This is tragic given the problems this country faces, but it’s the reality in the Tea Party Era.
Expect to hear from me every once in a while when I get inspired. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter: @PMilazz.