Let's get partisan for a moment here. So I read an article last month on Slate.com which attempts to answer a question I was wondering myself: why are the Republicans more nasty and difficult than Democrats when they're out of power?
At first, I wondered if it might just seem like this to me because of my own political affiliations, but the article points out that Democratic Congressmen were fairly willing to cooperate and compromise with Republicans during the Bush Administration (e.g. with regards to the One Child Left Behind Act which might be W's biggest domestic policy initiative, not to mention the whole War in Iraq/war on terrorism thingie).
On the other hand, Republicans have not been cooperating with the Obama administration at all.
First off, the President's stimulus bill (now the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) received a whopping 0 "yea" votes from Republicans in the House of Representatives and only 3 Republicans voted for it in the Senate (Pennsylvania Senator Arlon Specter who has since crossed the aisle to the Democratic party and the two ladies from Maine -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe). My thought on this is that, yeah, I'm sure there were a lot of imperfections and problems with the bill: the growing deficit is a major concern (check out this nytimes article which breaks down how our Clinton era surplus has become a multi-trillion dollar deficit –- so far Bush era initiatives and reduced tax revenue from economic downturns account for 97% of this), also allocating more money to infrastructure projects would probably have been a good idea. But was the bill so bad that you would reject it and risk the chance that nothing will be done to help us out of this hole? Did these congressmen really think that the bill would do more harm than good? I'm sure the thought process of a lot of these Republicans went something like this: "I'll go on record voting 'no.' That way if it doesn't work out or if it ends up being a disaster I can say 'don't look at me, I didn't vote for it.'" In other words, much like Rush Limbaugh when he said that he hoped Obama fails, rather than looking out for the interests of our country, they're holding out in the hopes that they can score some quick partisan points if Obama's plan ends up being less than a roaring success.
Then there's Obama's nomination of J. Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Here's my take on this one: you just know a lot of conservative pundits and some Republican congressmen were going to attack Obama's candidate no matter whom he chose. Sotomayor was appointed to the Federal judiciary by Bush's father and she was put on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals by Clinton. She graduated at the top of her class in Princeton and, by all accounts, she's an accomplished and experienced jurist who works well with her fellow judges. There's no evidence that she is a "judicial activist" or that her opinions lean heavily to the left or the right, but still the attacks have come. These are either based entirely on the fact that she is a woman and Hispanic, or they focus on this one convoluted racial discrimination case (Ricci v. DiStefano) in which the 2nd Circuit did nothing more than affirm the trial court's judgment without adding their own written opinion. Talk about grasping at straws; I really don't understand what the hell that is supposed to tell us about Sotomayor's views on equal protection/affirmative action. Anyway, whateva, Sotomayor is totally going to get confirmed because the Democrats have the votes and she withstood a tough grilling when she was up for the seat on the 2nd Circuit so she's not going to implode.
And who can forget Cheney's anti-Obama, pro-torture goodwill tour? Plus, as the article points out, this is nothing new. During Bill Clinton's tenure, the Republican Congress wouldn't quit pursuing the Clintons' (admittedly kind of suspicious) Whitewater real estate investments, and, when they couldn't find any sufficiently damning evidence on that front, they launched an investigation into whether the president lied about an affair he had with a White House intern (despite the fact that no one gave a fuck -- although bj's...)
So why is the Republican opposition so much more nasty and obstructionist?
The article's author has a couple of theories. First of all, they have less practice being losers: before Obama came along the Republicans had won 5 of the last 7 presidential elections (since 1980 when Reagan trounced Carter). He also suggests that for Republicans winning elections may be more of an end in itself (e.g. Republicans are interested in being in power whereas Democrats have an agenda they're looking to get put in place). I think this characterisation might be a bit unfair. It makes me think of the old definition of "conservative" meaning resisting change and wanting to maintain the status quo as opposed to post-Reagan conservatism which -- in theory, at least -- has goals such as fiscal responsibility, reducing the size of government, federalism, balancing the budget, lowering taxes, decreasing government regulation of business. And what about the 1994 Contract of America which Newt Gingrich's Congress attempted to enact which included all kinds of reforms such as term limits and the line item veto? Then again, if you look at George W Bush, before September 11 came along what was he really hoping to accomplish during his presidency? Lower taxes for the wealthy, pro-oil company initiatives, deregulation... not exactly a very ambitious agenda.
But I have my own rabble-rousing theory about why the Republicans are being such assholes: THEY THINK THIS IS THEIR COUNTRY.
Seriously, if you listen to those windbags Rush Limbaugh (when did he become relevant again?), Glenn Beck (nut case), and Bill O'Reilly, when they are attacking President Obama for his "socialist!" policies or for talking to the Muslim world or whatever (taking his wife out to dinner maybe?), they give the impression that they are speaking for the majority of Americans. Glenn Beck seemed to say this fairly explicitly during his ridiculous crocodile tears telethon or whatever the hell that freakshow was when he said "we surround them" (at least that's what I think he was getting at). But, of course, these angry conservatives you keep seeing on TV teabagging and whatnot do not represent the majority of Americans. In fact 52.9% of voters pulled the lever for Obama last November, a real majority and percentage-wise a greater coup than either Bill Clinton or W ever managed. And let's not forget (because I never tire of bringing this up) that Obama didn't just pull swing states like Ohio and Florida but he won in Virginia and NORTH CAROLINA -- states where no Democractic presidential candidate had won for over 30 years.
Getting back to Sotomayor (and as a bit of an aside), I heard some conservative pundit attacking her awhile back saying that the ONLY reason she was being put forward as a candidate for the Supreme Court is because she is latina. He went on to say that this is just one more case of Obama era affirmative action, the biggest example of which is -- of course -- the election of President Obama himself! To this I feel I must respond that, no, Obama did not become the president as a result of affirmative action. There is no quota reserving the seat in the oval office for a black American. They didn't award Obama an extra 20 electoral votes because he was black. There was a FUCKING ELECTION and the majority of Americans voted for Obama!
I just checked on Gallup.com and according to them, as of today (Friday, June 12, 2009), the president's job approval rating is 61%. So, no, the conservative talking heads are not speaking up for the silent majority but rather for a vocal and visible minority. This all reminds me of Sarah Palin's infamous speech where she called small towns "the Real America" implying that, you know, parts of America like California and New York where people disagreed with a lot of her worldview didn't really count.
I actually think that a lot of Democrats really ascribe to this view as well. Especially after 8 years of fucking W, it's been drilled into us that the majority of Americans think less like us and more like those bitter rednecks who cling to their guns and their bibles (or Marguerite Perrin, Trading Spouses' "god warrior," who you can watch the whole episode on youtube and yes she is from Louisiana so feel free to judge the whole state based on her batshit performance). They might be spread out and occupy more land, but these people do not outnumber us. We won the election; we are in power. Maybe it's about time we left-leaning Americans stop apologising for being "elitists" and deferring to the views of the rural, conservative constituency and fucking own it! If not now then when?
Photo of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh from fox news