21 January 2010

From FDR to Jimmy Carter in 12 short months

This is a post I really didn't want to write, but: Barack Obama appears to be grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.

Healthcare reform in the US, which was already heavily compromised as a result of having to make so many concessions to right-wing Democrats in the Senate to secure the 60 votes necessary for a filibuster-proof majority, now seems set to sink without trace because of the shock Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate by-election.

However, the current healthcare reform bill has already passed the Senate - so if the House of Representatives were to pass it as is, it wouldn't need to go back to the Senate. The Massachusetts result would be irrelevant.

At this stage, surely you would think that the great hope of progressive US politics - Barack Obama - would push hard to get the bill through. After all, it's pretty much all he's focused on for 12 months in office and its failure would make that first year look completely pointless.

Instead, as Paul Krugman has pointed out, what progressive America got from Obama was this:

I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill. Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like.

Where's Barack been for the past twelve months? Why does he not seem to realise what he's up against here?

As I've said before on this blog, the whole "bipartisanship" thing is a pile of crap. The Republicans are, pretty much to a person, right-wing extremists. Like the Terminator, they can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pain or pity and they absolutely will not stop - EVER - until they have turned America into a fascist state. (Ironically, the original Terminator, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is considerably more moderate than almost anybody on the Republican side in the Senate.)

It seems to me that Barack Obama expects the Republicans to play nice party politics, and simply doesn't realise the ferocity of the opposition he's dealing with. It was the same with Jimmy Carter in 1980. He underestimated just how insane the Republican base was and what Ronald Reagan was stirring up, played the nice guy who was worried about the environment - and got his ass kicked.

I don't think Obama will go down after one term like Carter did, unless things get a lot worse. His newly announced banking reforms (if he can get the legislation through without being terribly watered down) should help. But he really does need to learn something about the dirty tricks school of politics - and fast. George W Bush was in his element with this stuff - as was Bill Clinton. I'm not always positive about Clinton, but if he was in office at the moment, in these circumstances, health reform would probably be on its way through. Obama needs to sit down with Clinton - who knows what the Republicans are capable of more than anyone - and get some advice over a couple of beers.

Why are the Democrats so weedy? It's a mystery to me (and, it seems, to Paul Krugman), so any enlightenment from US-based readers would be very welcome. Certainly, British politics doesn't seem to work like this. Labour politicians may have many faults, but an inbuilt assumption that the Tories are nice people who will always play by the rules is not one of them.

Come on Barack - you can do better than this. Or did you never want to in the first place? If so, America, like the UK, is f***ed.

1 comment:

Van Patten said...

I think any comparison with Franklin D. Roosevelt was based more on hope than judgement. Perhaps the Carter comparison is more apt (a number of right-wing commentators have already made it) but I'm gobsmacked if I can find a contender on the Republican side who has the stature (for better or worse, from your perspective) of Reagan, so I would be truly amazed unless there is a 'double Dip' recession, if he were not to triumph in 2012. Racial politics, although heavily practised by the likes of Ken Livingstone and other hard leftists in the UK is a huge business in the US, and the 95% of Blacks who voted for Obama are unlikely to come out in droves for Romney, Huckabee or Palin,say. (unless a Black Republican candidate comes out of the woodwork - that would make it interesting!)

In terms of bipartisanship within US politics, I don't think there was ever a 'political consensus' such as that in the UK which Thatcher shattered in 1979, but I think pre-Reagan (and I'm guessing you'd echo this based on your take on the recession) there was a greater degree of continuity between Truman/Eisenhower or even Johnson/Nixon than was the case in the 1980's and 1990's. However, the elephant in the room (and missing from your analysis) is the extremists on the democrat side. One of the reasons Clinton (and his wife) were attacked so virulently is that they cleverly aligned themselves with and were , in their early years, primarily funded from Beijing, rather than the primary Communist enemy at that time, Moscow - the 'Evil Empire' of the Regan/Bush Sr era. This enabled him to amass the funding to secure the presidency, at the price of effectively giving the Chinese ICBM technology which has enabled them to not necessarily match but greatly decrease the gap between their military capability and the US. See the book 'Hating Whitey and other progessive cause' by David Horowitz - in the chapter 'The Manchurian President' it outlines the scale of Clinton's treachery.

I think it comes down to the Republicans realising what the Democrats and their ilk represent (at least some of their extremists) Whilst I take your point about the majority of the Republicans being hard right, which for you equals a fascist state, penetration of the US academic scene in particular was considered an almost moot point by the Soviets as almost to a man (or woman) tenured academics in the US were advocates of political correctness so left-wing the term 'fellow traveller' seems an understatement. Thus by your reckoning, to turn the country into a Socialist Police state would be perfectly acceptable, but the Republicans are to be condemned for allegedly turning it into a Fascist state? (and in terms of superpowers the last two Fascist powers suffered complete military defeat and occupation more than 50 years ago - I don't think much funding from their coffers exists to exert an influence now!) When faced with people that are willing to either betray the country of their birth for pecuniary advancment or worse still openly do the same without being paid, I think I'd be a little upset, too!

Furthermore, recent election results pre -2008 showed the Rebublican base holding much stronger than the Democrats, so Obama is in my eyes trying to at least find some common ground between the two extremes. I think this is a worthy, although like you, possibly a futile gesture. Does that mean he should stop trying and merely seek to punish the 40% who voted for Mccain, to benefit the 8/10% who were pro - Moscow, pro Vietcong, pro Cuba, pro PR China, etc? Give me a break!