Friday, 11 October 2013

Wacko-wing may get what it wants

(Washington, D.C.) – I wandered down Pennsylvania Avenue Thursday afternoon amidst the abandoned government buildings and forlorn lunch shops just in time to see Obama’s motorcade roar down the concourse in a rather overblown display of security given that hardly anyone was about. It was an apt metaphor for the state of affairs among our governing class—lots of pomp for the benefit of an audience that can’t afford seats.

The attitudes of my acquaintances there range from disgusted to cautiously optimistic, the latter based on the sanguine conviction that Obama ‘has the high ground’. Indeed he does and has always had since his massive victory in 2008. But will he use it? History is quite definitive on that point: no. A novel reversal could be in the offing, but we should be prepared to expect another partial cave-in to Obama’s enemies’ subversive blackmail. I hope, but do not expect, to be wrong.

I am often reminded during both this and many other current debates of the Teabagger/anti-immigrants’ monotonous refrain that the many Mexicans entering visa-less from the south to take up jobs and residence in Alabama and South Carolina are engaged in lawless behavior. ‘What part of illegal don’t you understand?’ was a favorite placard at their indignant rallies. And yet when laws are meant to reflect the will of the majority and are duly passed, enacted and upheld by our three branches of government, all such discussions fly out the window. These people have no interest in the rule of law or the will of the majority.

Obama’s easily intimidated team never wields this particular cudgel to whack back at the profoundly autocratic forces arrayed against him. There seem to be no set rules that the GOP and their wacko-wing cannot breach with imperious glee after loudly claiming to defend constitutional purity. Republican-style health insurance forced down the collective throat? Disavow it and move the goalposts. Elections being lost? Change the qualifications for voting and purge the lists. Obama’s program favored over Romney’s? Stop the operations of government entirely.

Nonetheless and despite massive evidence that no deals can ever satisfy the howling wolves of white Southern reaction, Obama allows himself to be maneuvered into ‘negotiations’ over permission to occupy the presidency with no guarantee that the terms of said permission will remain in force tomorrow. After the Repubs’ clever pounding away at alleged White House obstinacy in refusing to cut deals with the debt-ceiling gun held at all our heads, Obama now hosts the leaders of this neo-secessionist movement and emerges with half a smiley-face.

The worst possible outcome is perhaps the most likely: an eventual deal that will be erected on the backs of the most vulnerable, involving the first nicks and cuts at Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, thereby opening the door to many more with the principle well and firmly established by the party of FDR. Obama has stated openly that he seeks this massive betrayal of the New Deal legacy and his own constituency, and only bullheaded antagonism from people who loathe him has prevented him from getting it. Yet his defenders attribute all blame to the bad-guy loonies and refuse to lay any blame at his feet.

How would a more brutal and determined politician (I hate to admit that Hillary Clinton comes to mind) have reacted to this snotty GOP refusal to play by any rules that do not result in them winning? For starters, I cannot imagine that this hypothetical president would have promptly handed over, as Obama did, all threat of unilateral action to defend the ‘full faith and credit’ clause of the Constitution, thereby giving away a powerful tool in the midst of the fight. How interesting would it be to see Obama order government payments to continue (through a half-dozen suggested tactics) in defiance of congressional meddling.

My interlocutors in Washington said that that would trigger an impeachment proceeding from the lower house, but who’s to say that we won’t be seeing one sooner or later anyway? Why not stage a bare-knuckles fight over something worth defending? And in any case, who would win such a showdown? Unfortunately, we’ll never know because the guy in charge hasn’t got a confrontational bone in his body when it comes to his mortal enemies down the street. The only people he’s really willing to go after are the whistleblowers, Yemeni tribespeople and senior citizens trying to avoid a cat-food lunch. That is, us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Though the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power of impeachment, it is the Senate that actually tries the case, and conviction requires a two-thirds majority of that body. Impeachment could look incredibly messy, but probably wouldn't go anywhere. One can argue the pros and cons of risking impeachment and/or of using, or threatening to use, one of the much-written of tactics for continuing to meet the government's financial obligations (I admit to greatly enjoying the thought of flummoxing the legislative terrorists in the Republican party by simply paying the nations obligations, like any good head of household should). I guess what what is most extraordinary to me in all this, is that the President seems to be automatically forgiven by so many of his constituents for actions (or inaction) that would have driven them into the streets in protest, had he been a Republican (let's not even get into the NSA). Though I imagine that Hilary, were she President, would disappoint me with not-progressive-enough positions on trade, the economy and perpetual war (to mention three big ones), I too have found my self occasionally imagining that at least she wouldn't give away the whole Democratic store, without putting up a pretty brutal fight. Not that Obama won't stand fairly strong on his signature healthcare legislation, but his sanguine acceptance of the possibility of hacking away at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is unbelievably disappointing coming from a member of FDR's and even LBJ's party. He can't even seem to manage a passionate speech on the vital importance of these programs.