So, what did we learn from today’s vote on the stimulus package?
First, the Republican Party just isn’t a serious political party. They’re not serious about fixing our economy, they’re not serious about governing our country, and nobody should make anything more than a token effort at working with them. President Obama and the Democrats bent over backwards to appease Republican demands–yet, despite their hard work and compromise, not a single Republican crossed the aisle and voted for the stimulus package.
Second, the Republican Party will only have any power if Democrats think they need Republican votes and think they should compromise to get Republican votes. Democrats everywhere–particularly in the Obama administration–should take note: the GOP won’t support your initiatives no matter how much conservative-friendly pro-big-business sugar you dump on top. There’s really no sense in trying to be bipartisan if the other side isn’t playing along.
I’m sure conservatives are celebrating this as a victory, but that in and of itself is quite sad–it’s a pretty long fall to go from controlling all three branches of the federal government to celebrating the fact that your entire caucus voted against a piece of legislation that ended up passing over your objections by 60 votes. I guess you could consider that a moral victory if you’re the type to believe that everyone working together to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic was a moral victory.
Perhaps Obama thought he could get Republican support and worked hard to get it. But I think there’s another dynamic at play here. Remember, Republicans are notoriously myopic and almost always think in the short-term–they voted en masse to defeat an economic recovery bill and will celebrate that for the forseeable future. But remember that Obama went very far toward appeasing Republican demands, including two very high-profile meetings with House and Senate Republicans.
Obama is building a narrative by showing us that he’s working hard to win Republican support, even if he ends up with nothing to show for it. The narrative is that Republicans are intractable obstructionists who can’t be negotiated with, and that to get anything done you’re almost required to ignore their objections. If that narrative takes, the Obama administration will have an easy time simply cutting the GOP out of the process and pushing their legislation through Congress without any political repercussions. But, for now, Democrats have to painstakingly make the case that the GOP can’t be taken seriously, at least for the time being.