If you grew up believing FDR and Truman and Kennedy and Johnson first saved the country and then worked tirelessly to improve it by expanding the social network, then you cannot help but be disappointed in President Obama. Compared to these pillars of the Twentieth Century Democratic Party, the current President comes off as timid, perhaps downright craven. Also, the current “occupant” appears to be none too savvy when it comes to political infighting. Compared to all the Democratic Presidents since 1900 President Obama comes off as excessively eager to avoid conflict. There appears to be nothing he believes in enough to risk a chance of a second term. He presents himself as all rhetoric and self interest.
Obama’s apologists will tell you my analysis of him is all wrong. They will say Obama is not a Twentieth Century Democrat, he is a Twenty-First Century Democrat and my judgement is, therefore, flawed. It is flawed because I am judging him using “old school” values that are no longer relevant to modern American realities. Obama knows that government programs and policies are no longer critical to establishing and maintaining social justice. Obama may not even believe government can be a force for good in society. Obama may not believe collective, organized action by laboring men and women is still required, that individual creativity and initiative is now so critical to commercial success in all fields that organized collective rights only get in the way of the gifted and society itself. In all this, if this is what Obama believes, he is more akin to Jefferson than to Roosevelt.
We, the voters, cannot actually know any of this as Obama will not act consistently in accordance with what many of us thought he has told us. Indeed, his rhetoric consistently points in one direction while his actions reflect a center right, at best, political philosophy. All this time I have been convincing myself Obama simply hasn’t the temperament or capacity to be President. It could be Obama truly intends to be a “transformative” President and party leader. It is entirely possible he has bought into the Corporatist philosophy of governance and is moving, and intends to move, the effective political left in this country far to the right of the “old school.” If you look at his Health Care Finance legislation and his economic policies from this point of view it would be easy to see evidence of this.
So what? Other than working diligently to change the fabric of political life in America and being dishonest and sneaky about it, nothing new in politics, The President has done nothing illegal in this.
For an old school Democrat Obama is a severe disappointment. That is for sure and certain. However, even if he shared my values and had he been a skilled and powerful force, some one like Lyndon Johnson, that would not fix the problem in Washington. The problem in Washington is not in the Executive branch or the Judicial branch. The problem in Washington is Congress.
Congress is an institution set up to allow the leaders in the institution to control the majorities of both houses. It is designed to make everything so complex that only those who control the calendar and the committees can manipulate the system long enough to get anything done. Further, only those who have been in office for extended periods of time can ascend to leadership. These are the very people most removed from the everyday lives of their constituents and most attuned to special interests of one sort or another.
Unfortunately, for them, the rules they employ to accomplish all this control give any organized group of true believers in the House of Representatives the ability to hold everyone else hostage. In the Senate it is even worse. As Senator Reid is alleged to have said, “Nothing of significance can pass the Senate without sixty votes.” (60% of all the Senators)
Congress has so rigged itself that neither body is representative of the majority. As such, it no longer reflects the will of the Republic. As such, it has made itself easy prey to the predators of the business lobby, that was intended. In the process they have also made themselves an easy mark for extremist politicians, that was unintended.
I was fascinated watching the Congressional leaders parade in and out of the White House and the committee rooms of the Capitol, every member working hard, slaving away trying to save the nation during the debt ceiling “crisis.” It was absurd, it was surreal, it was pathetic; pick a modifier.
I am sure every member, laboring away to snatch the nation back from the brink of ruin, felt great pressure and strain. I am certain they felt great relief upon the passage of whatever it is they finally spit out. You could see they were, because of this and that contained in the limit lifter bill, disappointed with the some specifics of the “compromise.” However, to the man and/or woman, they were satisfied with the sacrifice they made and the accomplishment that resulted from all their hard, hard “work.”
They were also, to the man and woman, ridiculous.
Congress is an institution crafted to prevent decisions and glorify the process. The procedures and the methods critical to Congressional “action” are stifling and stupid and would not be tolerated in any other non-legislative entity, of any kind.
Congress was created by the founders because they did not trust the majority, not in all things. The majority is too prone to flights of political passion. Therefore, our founders believed, it was critical to keep the “grown ups” in charge. Congress was the mechanism chosen to be the brake on passion and riot in the body politic.
I have no real quarrel with the general idea. The majority all too often becomes a mob and it needs to be held in check at those times. Congress, however, has expanded upon this idea so that virtually nothing can happen. If it is a matter of importance, like the health care finance bill passed earlier, by the time something emerges from Congress the only people who know what is in it ate the policy wonks and the corporate lobbyists. Whatever it was intended to do you can be certain it will not do. You can be just as certain, as it reveals itself, everyone will be surprised it works the way it does and legions of Congressmen will bitch about it and promise to fix it.
Congress, even when the President is competent, even when the President is a real leader, is a malfunctioning, unmanageable mess. When the President is neither a leader nor marginally competent, Congress is lethally dangerous.
The internal operating rules of both Houses of Congress need to be thrown out. Congressional rules of procedure are to management of a deliberative body as Health Insurance policies are to concise written language. Both are designed to facilitate insider pool. They are designed to benefit the writers and screw everybody else.
Unfortunately, our Congressional leaders and their corporate masters are finding out that when you seek to thwart the majority and design a system to do just that, anybody smart enough to figure out the rules can employ the same tactics. That is what has been happening for the past several years. It is getting worse.
It should surprise no one that the new Tea Party members have figured out how to use the establishment’s rules against them. They are right at home. After all, they are serving at the Mad Hatter’s party and the main refreshment is tea, Total Economic Annihilation.