The President Is Right

Barack Obama, yesterday:

Now, in the past few days I’ve heard criticisms of this plan that echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis – the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can ignore fundamental challenges like energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject that theory, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. So I urge members of Congress to act without delay. No plan is perfect, and we should work to make it stronger. But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the essential. Let’s show people all over our country who are looking for leadership in this difficult time that we are equal to the task.

Today, Republicans control just 41 Senate seats, their smallest Senate caucus since the 95th Congress convened in 1977. They control just 178 House seats, their smallest House caucus since the 103rd Congress convened in 1993. There’s a reason the number of Republicans in Congress is at historic lows: the GOP failed and the American people took their power away.

The Democrats aren’t engaging in nasty partisanship by refusing to include every Republican proposal in the job creation bill; they’re exercising their rightful power as a majority duly elected by the American people. While I certainly don’t believe in majoritarianism–the rights of the minority have to be protected–the GOP minority doesn’t have the right to force every idea they have into this bill. Republicans lost because the American people rejected their  ideology–they need to realize that their lack of influence is what the American people wanted, not some kind of idiosyncrasy or aberration.

It’s ironic how the idea of a mandate–which the GOP embraced after George Bush’s razor-thin victory in 2004–has gone out a window now that a popular Democrat is President. And it’s funny how the idea that ‘elections have consequences’ was also thrown out the window at around the same time. The truth is, yes, elections do have consequences, and the main one is that the losers have a diminished capacity to influence legislation. The GOP might not like it–just like the Democrats didn’t like it when we were in the minority–but it’s a reality they need to learn to live with. Obstructionism will not get them their power back, nor will trying to force their unpopular agenda through Congress against the will of the American people.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman makes a good point:

But the part that really got me was [Columnist David] Broder saying that we need “the best ideas from both parties.”

You see, this isn’t a brainstorming session — it’s a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. If one thing is clear from the stimulus debate, it’s that the two parties have utterly different economic doctrines. Democrats believe in something more or less like standard textbook macroeconomics; Republicans believe in a doctrine under which tax cuts are the universal elixir, and government spending is almost always bad.

Yes, there is a fundamental disagreement over how to best stimulate the economy and, to some extent, neither party will be happy with a compromise bill.  But, again, the Democrats are the majority and the Republicans are the minority; the American people rejected the Republican Party and their ideas for two elections in a row. For that reason alone, the GOP should not have a significant amount of influence over what goes into this bill  (which is fortunate, since Republican proposals are not as cost-effective as Democratic proposals). That’s how representative democracy works–the fewer people you represent, the less power you have.

I’m glad to see that the President is finally going on the offensive over this bill.  The Republican’s obstructionism and politicking are more than shameful and it’s time for our President to use his significant political capital to get this bill passed.   The American people are on his side and Republican Senators are “scared to death” of his popularity, so it’s time for President Obama to wade into this mess and set things straight once and for all.