Saturday, November 15, 2014
Go For It, Barack
Let's cut to the chase, sir. I get it, you're not a progressive. You never were. I figured that out within a few months of your first inauguration. And you're sure as hell no socialist, despite what the wingnuts on the Right say. Bruce Bartlett nailed you perfectly. You're what we used to call a liberal Republican. That's not an oxymoron. As strange as it might seem, we used to have liberal Republicans in this country. Now we just call them Blue Dog Democrats.
For most of your six years in office, you've tried to be the adult in the room, pursuing your better angels, as your hero Abraham Lincoln was fond of saying. But your reasonable approach, while laudable, not only didn't get you the results you expected, it allowed your opponents to define you in their image. More importantly, it squandered the political capital you had when you entered office. As a salesman, I have learned the hard way that negotiating from the middle is a recipe for disaster.
Nobody could blame you for focusing on policy early on. There was a lot on your plate. We were weeks, perhaps days, away from a second Great Depression. But while you may have done a credible job of dotting the i's and crossing the t's, you neglected the all-too important issue of perception. Maybe you knew where you were going, but the public was completely out of the loop. This left many of us bewildered and some of us frustrated.
Maybe, in hindsight, the best healthcare reform we could get was the Affordable Care Act. Maybe the concept of a single-payer delivery system was never more than a pipe dream. But maybe if you had fought for it earlier, some of us would've felt a whole lot better when the law finally passed. The lack of narrative building - letting people know where you're going and why - has been, by far, your biggest liability.
The 2010 lame-duck deal you struck with Republicans pissed off many Democrats and many progressives who felt you should've been far tougher. I was not as hard as many of them were; at the time I thought it was a fair deal and probably the best you could've struck, given the midterm results. But, again, your reasonableness was met eight months later by an intransigent House that threatened a debt-ceiling default if you didn't give in to their demands. The ransom they extracted from you brought us the Sequester. You badly underestimated the resolve of your opponents and the whole country paid dearly for it. We're still paying to this day.
You won reelection over Mitt Romney by five million votes. It was a major ass whooping for the GOP. But when I look at that election closely, two things keep resonating for me: 1. The Republicans on a national level are simply way too out of the mainstream for the electorate; and 2. The Democratic base came out in droves. To be honest, if either of those two paradigms were even remotely different, the election results would've been far different. Face it, sir, you owe a good deal of your success to a political party that has been falling on its sword for six years. You beat General Custer and Thurston Howell III. It doesn't get any easier than that.
And now here we are again. A major win for the GOP in the 2014 midterms and a seemingly reeling Democratic Party on its heels. It's déjà vu all over again. You're being told by the Republican Party to be reasonable. Give us a chance to govern, they insist. If you sign an executive order on immigration it will "poison the well" and thwart any future deals between you and them. They seem SO sincere and, as is typical, they have all the political wonks' sympathy.
Don't believe it!
You've threatened you will move forward with an executive order if Congress doesn't act. Do it. Go for it. In fact, go for it big time. No middle of the road, reasonable order nonsense, but a full-tilt boogie order that makes Republican heads explode.
If they'd wanted immigration reform, they'd have passed it by now. John Boehner could've put the Senate bill to an up and down vote in the House. But he didn't and he won't. He can't. The moment he does, he's finished as Speaker. And he knows it. So do you.
Oh, and Mitch McConnell? Old turtle face will have his hands full with Ted Cruz and the looney far right. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for him getting a new immigration bill out of his caucus. Like Boehner, he talks big, but he knows where his bread is buttered.
And tax reform? Entitlement reform? Please, sir, don't make me laugh. I have a better chance of riding shotgun with Matthew McConaughey through a worm hole than this Congress has achieving anything more significant than a few omnibus spending bills. Think about it, in four years the House hasn't passed a single jobs' program. It took them less than an hour to pass the XL Keystone pipeline. This is what you'll be dealing with the next two years. I'd keep that veto pen handy, if I were you; you're going to be using it a lot.
Immigration reform isn't just good for the country, it's vital for your party's future. The Democratic Party is the party of diversity. It's the principle reason you won two elections. But the Hispanic community has grown disenchanted with you, to say the least. Your delay in taking executive action might not have cost Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu their seats - they were likely toast anyway - but it probably cost Kay Hagen and Mark Udall theirs. It most definitely impacted the Florida gubernatorial race. Charlie Crist lost by 66,000 votes. Guess who didn't come out to vote in Broward and Dade counties?
The Democratic base has had a history of not showing up for midterms, but this year's turnout was the lowest in 72 years. That wasn't an accident; it was a warning - a shot across the bow, if you will - to the Party and, with all due respect, you'd be wise to take heed. If that happens in 2016 and the GOP manages to nominate someone who isn't crazy, they may well end up winning the election, even with Hillary at the top of the ticket.
A simple look at the demographics is all you need, Mr. President. The GOP knows its goose is cooked with the minority vote. They're running out of time. Ask any Republican operative off the record and they will acknowledge what you and I both know: that the only hope they have of winning a national election is to get as many white voters as they can to the polls and discourage as many minority voters as they can from showing up. They've got the former nailed down. As to the latter, they can accomplish this by enacting strict voter suppression laws throughout the country, which they are sadly doing and getting away with. But they can also accomplish this by dragging this whole immigration reform thing on ad infinitum. Every day that goes by without them passing a reform bill appeases their base and angers yours. At some point it will not be enough for Democrats to simply point to the GOP and say that they're to blame. Hispanics are going to start holding you and the Democratic Party accountable, and sooner rather than later. Trust me, if there isn't some movement on this issue over the next few months, the ramifications could be devastating.
I'm guessing you know all this, which is why you've said you plan on going forward with executive action. That's good. Now follow through with your threat. The last time you drew a red line in the sand, you blinked. You paid a terrible price for that error in judgement. Now would be a good time to avoid another trot down memory lane.
I get it, elections have consequences. But they also provide valuable lessons for those who care to learn them. Your party ran away from its core values. Worse, the candidates who lost failed to articulate a vision for what they stood for and why the voters should vote for them. In retrospect, it shouldn't have been that shocking that the GOP cleaned our clocks. Frankly, based on what we now know, I'm surprised they didn't do better on election day.
And that is a good thing. It means that the voters didn't so much vote for the Republican Party as they voted against the Democratic Party. Anti incumbency was evident all throughout the election results. If the base can get re-energized in time for 2016 and the Democrats offer a clear distinction between them and the GOP, the losses sustained in November can easily be reversed. If not, we're toast.
Do not be alarmed at the blow back from the Sunday-morning talking heads. The day Wolff Blitzer and Chuck Todd start being relevant is the day I move to Canada. And ignore the push back from people like Joe Manchin and Clair McCaskill. There's talk they might jump ship and switch parties. Good luck with that move. The moment either or both of them do that, they will face primary challenges in the next election from the Tea Party who will rightly smell the move for what it is: political grandstanding. Ask Arlen Specter how switching parties worked out for him. He lost anyway.
Now is the time for boldness, sir. You've been the reasonable man for far too long. It's time to give Jackie Robinson a rest and bring out Hammerin' Hank. Sure, you will catch some flack. But most of that flack will come from people who didn't vote for you anyway. And, yes, it will mean that the next two years are ostensibly shot. But I think we both know that was going to be the case regardless of what you did or didn't do. You were a marked man the moment you took the oath of office. Face it, they don't like you and they have zero interest or incentive in working with you.
The real prize is 2016. That's the goal. The GOP knows it all too well. They're betting everything that your better angels will distract you long enough for them to prevail. You must deny them that victory at all costs. Signing an executive order will accomplish two things: 1. It will start the healing process between the Party and Hispanics, and 2. It will force the GOP into attempting to undo what you did, which will only further damage them with the very voters they need to win in the future. It's a win, win.
They will threaten to impeach you; they will threaten a government shutdown; they will throw all kinds of fits. Let them. It's their funeral. Only a fool would believe they weren't going to do that anyway. They can't help themselves. They're predicable as dirt. Resist the urge to save them. As James T. Kirk once said, "Let them die."
It's time to go Clint Eastwood on their ass, Mr. President. Time to call their bluff and say, "Go ahead, make my day!"