Man, who ever thought it would be so hard being in charge? Seriously. It's become quite apparent that the Democrats have a serious case of minority-party PTSD as, with the exception of a hand full of brave souls, they seem capable of doing little more than cowering in the corner while Boehner and McConnell continue to steal their lunch money.
And all the while the drumbeat of criticism levied at President Obama about his push toward "bi-partisan" solutions has grown louder as even reasonable minded Democrats seem about ready to abandon this presidency and resign themselves to handing the keys back over to the GOP. I'll admit, I'm on that ledge. But let's consider this. What if bi-partisanship is not about Republican support, but about trying to wrestle in the remaining Reagan Democrats in Congress?
Look at who is consistently blocking Democratic initiatives, for example. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is a perfect case study. Now, as a Nebraskan I can speak a bit to Nelson and he is a classic Nebraska Democrat. If the Republicans were not so blatant in their racism he'd (and most his voters) would be Republicans. Same with Evan Bayh. Unless the Democrats were to get real comfortable with the idea of passing every piece of legislation via reconciliation (which would be far too brass-knuckled for the delicate constitutions of Democrats), President Obama needed to find a way to maintain 60 votes, and keep up appearances of Democratic unity. That's a political quagmire if one ever existed.
But so what? What do we do now that the Republicans control the House and have pledged to block every piece of legislation the Democrats introduce (save, of course, tax cuts, OBVIOUSLY). Do we let them, as some on the left have suggested and let the American people see them for the obstructionists that they are? Sounds tempting, but I'm starting to think that's too sophisticated for our current political media and most voters. Sigh.
Or, do we take the tactic of our President and work to get SOMETHING passed, knowing that something is better than nothing and it is easier to build on legislation than to pass it? That's what we did with health care reform and financial services reform. It's also what we did with civil rights legislation. Our first Civil Rights Act was pretty meager. Over time it got better. I suspect the same will be true with the Affordable Care Act, presuming the Democrats (and a few sane Republicans) find the will to beat back the impulse to cave to the quick and conservative-media driven narrative that the bill is garbage.
So, I guess what I'm saying is let's not give up, no matter how dark and how cold our political climate may be right now. And lets resist the urge to punish one man for the failings of Congress and keep in mind that legislative change happens incrementally, and often is a process of two steps forward, one step back. We'll get there, and President Obama can still bring us there, but not if we expect miracles and victories at every turn and in every year.