Sunday Political Football

Obama’s making budget announcements this week with projections up to the end of his term in 2013; will he peel off Republicans votes this time or will they just keep coming to his house to drink his liquor and eat the cookies at his business meetings?

I haven’t blogged any politics since the election, really, but the new plan is to  do ‘current events’ posts on Sundays henceforth, as a sort of post-modern simulacrum of reading the Sunday paper.  For this first edition, I’ve got this post (which I wrote yesterday) and maybe another one later, if I don’t save that for next week. On to the matter at hand.

Just like Jesus imagined it.

Just like Jesus imagined it.

Okay so here’s the NYT article on the budget plan. Obama’s priorities are all exactly what you would expect from his campaign positions, so there’s no surprises there.  Matt “Professional Politics Blogger” Yglesias and his twitter feed don’t think the deficit reduction stance needs to be so aggressive, but I think as a confidence-building measure now it helps, whether it is ultimately met or not. Besides that, this is Obama’s big political play to crack the party-line vote among House Republicans. They justified their unanimous opposition to the stimulus bill largely on concerns about fiscal discipline.  Obama’s budget shares those concerns.

But that’s no reason to think the GOP will vote for it– Republicans are the party of business and the investor class, and Obama seeks to raise taxes on both.  This could play a lot like the stimulus bill played, with Obama making numerous gestures to include Republicans and incorporate their priorities and criticisms where he considers them legitimate, only to be jilted at the political altar.

Legislatively, Obama can get pretty much whatever he wants because the Democrats control both houses of Congress and nearly have the supermajority necessary to prevent filibusters in the Senate.  I think Obama likes involving the GOP in the process as another sounding board to help temper his policies, but the GOP itself is more than happy to have the political irrelevancy that was driving Democrats insane during the Bush disaster administration.

They’re betting that the economy will be even shittier in 2010 than it is now, and if so, they can say they had nothing to do with Obama’s failed plan and gain seats in Congress when the voters punish the Democrats for… trying.  What the Republican Party is forgetting in this scenario is that this is the country that re-elected George W. Bush, of all people, for… trying.

Obama’s problem, in turn, is that he wants to build consensus with Republicans based on shared ends, like “lower deficits” or “preventing a return to the barter system.”  But his means, the policy proposals, are liberal. Because, you know, he’s a liberal President with a liberal Congress and both of them just won an election. It’s not rocket science.  But the GOP can obviously oppose a lot of things on purely ideological grounds, because it’s not like they have anything better to do anymore, such as ruin govern a country, so in terms of domestic policy initiatives I don’t think he’s going to see many results from his bipartisan overtures unless something important explodes somewhere and the GOP is suddenly afraid of looking unpatriotic.

Aside from their utter irrelevance, though, the Republicans will, God willing, be a source of comedy for a long time to come.  When RNC chairman Michael Steele uses terms like “bling bling” to imply Democratic pork in the stimulus bill, or when RNC chairman Michael Steele promises to make his party more hip-hop, I can only hope it’s just the beginning. Has Michael Steele met other Republicans before?  Has he not seen Mitt Romney interact with black people?  This could get great.


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