After tonight’s State of the Union speech, I can see why politics is so mean, it’s because civil discourse is so boring. The speech was boring, the audience was pretty boring – with the exception of the dynamic Generals’ reaction to Obama’s pointing out that they can now recruit Gay service members. Those guys were at stiff attention in their seats; they resembled a sitting for Mount Rushmore.
The Republicans rolled out a fresh-faced Paul Ryan to give the rebuttal. Ryanlooks like he just finished as valedictorian at the community college but bust my buttons if he isn’t already a career politician at 7 terms in Congress.
I didn’t get to see the Tea Party response but I read the transcript. It was another ho-hum lambasting of Obama for failing to resolve the economic crisis within the first eight months of taking office.
“Here are unemployment rates over the past ten years. In October 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3 percent. In 2008 it was at 6.6 percent. But, just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1 percent.”
Really? Does the Tea Party fill their neti-pots with Rush Limbaugh loose leaf? Honestly, with the seriousness of this economic crisis, it’s as though they expected Obama to have visited Diagon Alley for a wand then grandly wave it around to fix things right up.
It is purely a hypothetical argument – posed by people who think that the public is a bunch of imbeciles – to say that a Republican or a Tea Party resolution to the economic crisis would have been able to avoid 10.1% unemployment eight months after the stock market crashed. Even saying that the stimulus is a failure after less than two years is a deliberate under-selling the seriousness of the economic mess we’re in.
The fact is that the Republicans – if they were in charge – would have enacted a stimulus of some kind to stem the crumbling financial system. The fact that they didn’t use procedural rules to slow down or stop the one that was enacted tells me they went along for the ride because they were all terrified that the house of cards was about to crumble down on their heads. People in power don’t fare well when the house tumbles.
I think they were all terrified. I also think the Republicans were happy as hell to have a Democrat in power at that moment in time because the best thing to do was “something” and nobody had a clue what the best “something” was. It was easier to allow the Democrats to do their “something” since they wanted the reins anyway (be careful what you wish for).
The sad thing about the politics of the situation is that if the Republicans had been in power and had been forced to make the tough calls to stop the economic crumbling the Democrats would be doing the same blame-game that the Republicans are doing now.
The fact is that the positions taken are more about political advantage in the next election than they are about admitting the seriousness of the situation we still face. Everyone knew that the economic situation was too serious to reverse itself before the mid-term election and the Republicans used the single fool-proof argument to retake Congress, that being that the economic stimulus wasn’t working (so far), but nobody really thought it would reverse the damage within 18 months.
All the thematic goals used in the speech tonight by President Obama were more about trying to get everyone onto the same platform or under the same umbrella. It was about getting people from all parties to nod about the stuff that should be foundational to both parties, the national stuff that’s indisputable.
The devil is in the details about how to accomplish the themes and sometimes what forms those themes even take. The level of pain involved in cutting budgets, in people’s expectations in government – in Social Security and Medicare primarily – may be so great that neither party has the guts to hold the knife and do the cutting.
But if tomorrow both sides decide that their set of details is more important than maintaining the agreement on the themes and finding compromise in the details, then we’re looking at some really tough times again as partisan politics kick into high gear and progress grinds to a halt.
Perhaps boring civility is what we need for a while, we need to be internally boring, having a civil meeting of the minds, a cozy circling of the wagons. External challenges will happen without our help and we’re always ready to respond to those. External challenge always brings us together as 911 did. I would think that during this internally-created crisis our leaders could see that the best way out is to work side-by-side.