by Richard Crews
Historically the U.S. Federal Government has been frozen up before. The Founding Fathers faced enormous resistance over such issues as loyalty to England and States' rights, the far-flung economic and cultural differences among the Colonies, and, most of all, the very newness of it all--building a government and administrative system from scratch. As the country grew and matured, it was brought to its knees by corruption and populism (Jackson), slavery (Lincoln), mega-business (Teddy Roosevelt), international isolationism (Wilson), and the Great Depression (FDR), to mention only a few of the historical highlights.
The Bush era left the nation in disarray and disrepute. Education suffered from "No Child" lack of funding and teach-to-the-test; science and the environment, from the political-speak called "junk science"; civil rights (even human rights), from secret government intrusions; international relations, from preemption and cowboy diplomacy; and the national (and world) economy, from deregulation and trickle-down myopia.
Obama swept into office with large majorities in both houses of Congress and a mandate for change. He was a brilliant, charismatic, and populist-centrist liberal, dedicated to collegial, bipartisan functionality in government. Yet a year later Washington politics is frozen solid. What went wrong?
Obama's hands-off respect for Congress and the separation of powers left the Congressional leaders in a predicament, the Democrats flush with arrogance, the Republicans, with despair. As health-care reform festered, the Republicans discovered that by distortion and political hype, they could have some influence, much as a child's tantrum brings a family party to a halt. During the summer break, they sent agitators throughout the country to distort and disrupt town-hall meetings on health-care reform. This strategy proved so successful in garnering public notice and tea-party-type support, that over the ensuing months the Republicans escalated it--largely through aberrant Senate procedural rules--to total legislative shut-down.
Of particular note in perpetrating this debacle are Senators Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, Richard Shelby, John McCain, Jim Imhoffe, and Tom Coburn. Powerful lobbying groups contributed their heft--Dick Armey of FreedomWorks (previously Citizens for a Sound Economy), Labor Unions, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the Club for Growth, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others. Dedicated media added their venomous fuel to the fire--Rush Linbaugh, Jane Hamaker, Frank Laentz, and even (perversely) Paul Krugman.
For a discussion of the individual roles played see--
What's to become of us? There are three factors to note. First, Obama is a brilliant and pragmatic politician. Second, he has nine months until the mid-term elections. Third, the country has been in constipated pickles like this before; we shall overcome.
Bun Gladieux, president of the Presssure Positive Company, has a blog with an interesting series of topics.
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