Rachel Maddow was up in arms yesterday on her show about the President's stimulus bill that was passed by the House. Despite efforts by the President to include elements in the bill to appeal to Republicans (tax cuts, etc.) at the expense of more spending on infrastructure, alternative energy and unemployment benefits, not one Republican voted for the bill. Not one. Amazing...
How is it possible that every single one of the 178 Republicans held together to oppose the bill? Even with Obama's popularity, eleven Democrats went against him on this one. And yet no GOPer had the gall to oppose the mighty John Boehner. I suppose this is due to circling the wagons when under attack, along with the fact that only the Republican-est of Republican districts elected Republicans this time around.
So what can be done to fight such solidarity among the GOP in opposition to Obama's attempts at bipartisanship? What can we derive from the saga of the stimulus plan regarding Obama's plan for doing so? It would appear that, as Ms. Maddow fears, that the President screwed up. He gave the Republicans part of what they wanted and yet got not one single vote in return. I have an alternative and more hopeful interpretation.
The outcome of Congressional votes is seldom in doubt. Most times, the exact vote of every single Congressman is known beforehand. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff, surely knew that, despite their concessions, they wouldn't have any GOP support. And yet the Democrats decided to include the tax cuts in the bill. This is part, I think, of a plan by the Administration to crush the Republican Party once and for all.
It's important to Obama's popularity that he be seen as a new sort of politician. He can't be seen as a blithely partisan figure. He has to make these sorts of attempts to build bipartisan consensus. He still manages to have the stimulus be seen as an entirely Democratic accomplishment, but he now has the added advantage of making the Republican Party look ridiculously obstructionist and out-of-touch, refusing to give even one vote in exchange for substantial concessions by the President.
If the economy recovers by November 2010, the Republicans are doomed. Like, Whig- and Federalist-level doomed. They're already down 77 in the House, and 18 in the Senate, with way more Republican Senate seats up for re-election in 2010 than those currently held by Democrats, meaning they are more likely than not to lose even more seats. A growing economy after an all-Democrat stimulus bill means they will lose so many more seats that they will become irrelevant.