Monday, February 16, 2009

Gandhian Hardball

Today's topic for meaningless chatter is bipartisanship. GOPers say the stim wasn't, the Obama folks insist the stim was: David Axelrod: "the package reflects the thinking of members of both parties. And I think that over time . . . there'll be a positive effect of just having dialogue, of just talking, which has not happened for a long time in this town."

On the other hand, President Obama told Clarence Page he thought the Republicans decided to make the stim a party line vote even before he first met with them. Andrew Sullivan sees it in stark terms--writing about Republicans: Their clear and open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot). They want failure. Even now. Even after the last eight years. Even in a recession as steeply dangerous as this one. There are legitimate debates to be had; and then there is the cynicism and surrealism of total political war. We now should have even less doubt about what kind of people they are. And the mountain of partisan vitriol Obama will have to climb every day of the next four or eight years."

The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg has a creative take: "Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball."

But given that all the steps Obama is taking and will take are going to take time to work, probably beyond the next election cycle in 2010, reinforcing political party support is going to be a topic (which should thrill the kids bidding each other up on the rec list at Daily Kos, with their adrenelin needs for contentious election campaigns.) The gossip on filling cabinet vacancies includes Kathleen Sebelius for HHS and Harold Ford, Jr. for Commerce. But these appointments would take two strong candidates out of contention for picking up Senate seats--much more of the moment for Sebelius, who is the only Kansas Democrat polling well enough to win in 2010. Not only the quest for the 60th Democrat is at stake, but the symbolism of Kansas is worth a lot in future inroads into GOPer territory.

But there are a lot of other uncertainties as well as other opportunities. Chances seem pretty good for a pickup in New Hampshire, but now the Dem seats in Illinois and perhaps even New York and Colorado are less than certain, with possibly contentious primaries ahead. On the other hand, if Charlie Crist runs for the Senate in Florida, given his support of Obama and the stim, there may be another R vote to join the lonely three. (Assuming Spector survives both a primary and a general in PA, which is not at all a sure thing. I'm not altogether sure he's even going to run.)

As ridiculous and repulsive as politics gets on the national level, it can't hold a candle to state politics. Right now California is working hard to commit suicide. Our legislature is full of fools and knaves, and the governator is so ineffective that people may begin to pine for Gray Davis. A budget deal, which gets worse by the minute, is only exceeded in awful consequences by no budget deal--and even if there is one, it may well be nullified by angry voters as early as May. In an apt if a little inside baseball analysis, there's this truth: The bill is coming due for 30 years of anti-tax zealotry and the belief that we can provide whatever citizens need without paying for it.The corporate tax breaks are really insulting, but the state's credit is zilch and it's estimated that delay will cost some $300 million simply in stopping and then restarting ongoing infrastructure projects. All in all, things are getting too big for such small politics.

No comments: