Over the last three years, the rest of the world cheered America. The rest of the world wanted this nation, under the leadership of its first African American president, to succeed. People around the world were practically euphoric over the prospect of an America willing to detach itself from the disastrous economic, foreign, and geostrategic policies of the previous Bush Administration. Perhaps it was this spontaneous outpouring of worldwide affection and support for Barack Obama that sowed the seeds of anger, hatred, and unvarnished vitriol that came to characterize the attitude and behavior of the leadership of the Republican Party toward the new president. More likely is the fact that Obama symbolized the changing demography of America and the inevitable impact on power sharing arrangements.
Forty months ago, a small but select group of Republican leaders, including recent GOP presidential contender and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, met in a Capitol Hill office to plot the downfall and humiliation of the newly inaugurated president and his administration. To many Americans, this represents no less than a great American betrayal. History may judge the administration of G.W. Bush as the worst in American history, but the Democrats did not plot to undermine him at the outset of his tenure as president. It is telling that the GOP continues to take comfort from an anemic recovery brought about largely by their intransigence.
The disappointing May jobs report provided temporary political lift to House Republican leaders and the Romney campaign because it offered a timely opportunity to once again portray President Obama as a failed president slavishly devoted to tax increases for “job creators” and more “job killing” regulations. Neither assertion is true, but it is a line of attack that permits conservatives to frame the economic initiatives of this administration in the most negative light possible. No one, therefore, should have been surprised at their reaction to the jobs report.
Our system of government is dependent upon cooperation for effective governance. Americans like it that way; at least until recently they have. It is fair to say that the GOP’s elected representatives today are largely unmoored from the constituencies they were elected to represent. Moreover, Republicans in Congress assume no responsibility for the consequences of precedent-setting practices to obstruct this president over every proposal he advances to elevate the economy from the morass he inherited from his predecessor. To the GOP, history began in January 2009, not January 2001, at least as far as the economy is concerned.
Meanwhile, income inequality in America continues to widen and the consequences have created serious ripples throughout society. Millions of Americans remain unemployed, homeless, and without much hope for the future as we approach the mid-point of this century’s second decade.
The scope of the GOP’s great American betrayal is breathtaking: bring the country to the brink of the abyss, and beyond; and, destroy the Obama Administration to reclaim power by any means necessary. Demand more tax cuts for the wealthy; resist any attempt to roll back the Bush tax cuts, and declare defense reductions off limits. Moreover, declare “Obamacare” as unconstitutional, lobby against consumer protection, and hold hostage any legislative proposals that help to recover from the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. The betrayal was calculated to spread economic uncertainty throughout the private sector like a plague timed to destroy, not weaken, the President’s prospects for a second term.
The betrayed are the tens of millions of Americans who believed in “Hope” and “Change” and brighter prospects for America after eight years of war, rising health care costs, wage stagnation, a housing market collapse, joblessness, and the collapse of Wall Street.
The betrayers never intended to govern when they could obstruct. There is no need to fabricate this assertion. The Senate Minority Leader admitted his “principal goal was to make Obama a one-term president.” When reports of the agenda for the secret Capitol Hill meeting on Inauguration Day 2009 surfaced, the betrayal was complete. There was a time when this behavior might have been considered treasonous. At the very last, their behavior was a stunning act of betrayal of those they were elected to serve. The current GOP presidential nominee is the latest accomplice.
Mr. Romney, according to the New York Times, “scoffed at Mr. Obama’s campaign slogan ‘forward’, saying the president was leading the nation ‘backward.’ The GOP’s nominee refuses to advance any new proposals that would distinguish a Romney Administration from those of the president he wants to unseat. Romney’s credibility is undermined among important segments of the electorate (women, Latinos, the GLBT community) when he consistently takes policy positions that appeal only to his base with whom, by the way, he cannot seem to disagree.
The New York Times frames the Republican betrayal in language that, to date, eludes the President’s campaign rhetoric: “The way forward has been blocked, time and time again, by Republicans pushing the same tax cuts and deregulatory policies now espoused by Mr. Romney, that have failed in the past to spur the economy.”
Romney and the GOP share selective amnesia regarding measures taken by the current White House, with bipartisan support, that helped to steady the economy. For example, the payroll tax extension through 2012 and how critical it was to our economic recovery and, as the President noted in a recent speech to the White House summit of key advisors and editors of influential online news sites, “the addition of four million jobs over the past few years.” Republicans, however, continue to insist the Stimulus did not create a single job. Again, this is just another example of politically selective amnesia.
Is it not an act of betrayal to set millions of Americans adrift on a sea of hopelessness by claiming debt reduction is more important than real job creation?
Is it not perfidy for a Speaker of the House to publicly proclaim that his party’s focus is on “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” while advancing numerous bills to restrict abortion and then calling them job creation? This does not fool Americans.
Is it not a breach of faith for Congressional leaders, with a fiduciary responsibility to the voters, to be willing to take the nation’s credit rating once again into the tank rather than work with the White House on legislation designed to restore the Middle Class – the real economic growth engine in America? History shows the American economy experienced its fastest growth when broad segments of society prosper.
Joseph Stiglitz aptly noted in a Vanity Affairs article, “The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position.”
This President still represents a profound disappointment to many of his most ardent supporters but they have not forgotten the excesses of his predecessor. The question for Obama’s campaign team is, can Obama retain the loyalty of those he inspired in 2008? Will he reap the rewards of that loyalty at the ballot box in November?
What distinguishes Obama from Mitt Romney and the GOP is his continuing commitment to govern on behalf of the country. He is not the philosophical ideologue prepared to sacrifice core principles. He believes in cooperation and is prepared to incur the wrath of his supporters to advance a broader policy agenda that would strengthen the economy, rebuild this nations crumbling infrastructure, increase domestic energy independence, preserve public education, advance reasonable regulatory reforms, and decrease our military presence in Afghanistan. This short list distinguishes him from Mitt Romney who fails to distance himself from a failed Republican agenda of the past.
The American people are looking for fairness, not just in income or wealth, but more broadly. They feel marginalized. Americans want a fully functioning government to address their concerns, largely the absence of opportunity.
Absent private sector investment and government-backed stimulus, one can only imagine the state of the economy, as it would exist today. Interminable sacrifice and perpetual austerity by the majority to preserve the power, privileges, and wealth of the very few is not a recipe for stability and social cohesion. The sinews holding this country together may be less elastic than envisioned by conservatives
I noted in an earlier post (”Measuring the 2012 Fall Election – Life Under the Jobs Report”), “The irony is that the path to success for the Romney campaign is an economic recovery that cannot be sustained, higher levels of unemployment, and just more bad economic news."
The Republican treachery is rooted in the notion that we collectively must endure more austerity and more pain. This is the route to success they envisioned at that fateful meeting on January 20, 2009.
Our collective frustration, fears, even bigotry among many, is the weapon the GOP depends upon to achieve power, the presidency, and total control over this country on November 6, 2012. The GOP, its SuperPAC allies, and the Koch brothers, have publicly announced they are prepared to spend one-billion dollars to create one job while funding the election of their acolytes to populate the House and the Senate, not to mention State houses. To date, only the State of Montana is prepared to wage war against the forces of darkness that stand at the gate.
What name does treachery have to have? What face must it present before we understand the gravity of the choice we have to make this fall?
When a political party is prepared to wage war against women (50 percent of the population); when that same party systematically destroys public education and public sector unions, flattens the economy, despoils the environment, and wages permanent war against presumed “enemies” for an oligopoly of interests, what greater act of treachery must we be prepared to endure before recognizing that all of us stand at the brink of the abyss?
For those that harbor the illusion they will escape the snare designed for others (the less deserving), remember the fate of the Air Traffic Controllers under President Reagan. They might also recall that if they come for others, then their friends and neighbors, you might be next.
Our choice is to contribute to the treachery that could engulf the country, or choose hope. What is the more reasonable choice?