Obama's Bipartisan Gambit

Can't tell you how exciting it is to see a president close his debut news conference, as Obama just did, by saying, apropos of his desire to bring people together, including even people from the other party, that "People over time respond to civility and rational argument -- and that's the kind of leadership I'm going to try to provide."

So many folks -- including the usually sound Paul Krugman -- seem to think this goal of bipartisanship is a sucker's game. I disagree: it's the essence of the change Obama can bring to the country, and a measure of his audacity that he's willing to try. He also plainly feels this in his bones -- witness the long riff at the press conference on why conservatives need to get past their "money doesn't matter" canard on schools even as he challenges liberals to get past their resistance to making systemic reforms in exchange for new investment. A lot of folks think getting both parties to to come together is a naive fantasy, and that Obama is just giving small groups like the moderate Senate Republicans undue power in the current stimulus battle, for example. This critique is shortsighted. Obama has his eye on a bigger prize -- literally changing the political culture in ways we need if we're to tackle a host of major challenges -- and he's taking risks to set that tone from the get-go. It's a big wager, but when your real project is to redefine the political center in the country, it's essential.

More on this -- maybe a column -- when I have time to develop the thought.


Blogger Sumisu said...

Matt, please take a look at Tom Tomorrow today (http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2009/02/10/tomo/)

The Republicans aren't simply going to admit they're the problem and simply give in to the respect/charm offensive. No, they're going to do what they always do: blame the other guy for exactly what they're doing. They don't care how bad things get as long as they feel they're convincing the voters they need that everything is Obama's fault.

What Obama really needs to do is call they out on each and every thing they do BY NAME (Tony Blankly's nuts when he says the President can speak too much). He needs to name names and in 2 years go after each and every Senate seat he can get.

The fact is his plans are they only way out: we have to re-create our economy and we have to invest in ourselves. Tax cuts? Never the answer: all they do is sap our strength. It is time for trickle up economics... or maybe as John Stewart says: give they money to the American People, let us pay off our debts and just re-set the system to Zero again.

February 9, 2009 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

That's exactly it- it makes me want to scream at the television, "So what's your plan, numbnuts?"

February 13, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger LAToxDoc said...

Much as I hesitate to disagree with Matt, I think it may be important to dissect the concept of bipartisanism. Exactly which are the two sides that should be compromising together? The centrist Democrats with the wingnut House Republicans? The progressive Democrats with the more centrist Republican governors? Some other oddball pairing of unlikely bedfellows?

Now that we have seen the Republican governors split off from the Republican members of Congress on the Stimulus Bill, one could argue, as Krugman has, that it's pointless for Obama to compromise with the Republican wingnut faction. Their ideas really aren't very good. In fact, they don't even represent the mainstream of their own party.

February 18, 2009 at 10:46 PM  

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