The Rewards of Obstruction

Yesterday Obama announced a new jobs and infrastructure proposal. The Republicans have already said no.

In law, if you kill to prevent a witness from testifying, the witness’s out of court statements can be introduced against you. In politics, if you kill efforts to reduce unemployment so that lots of people are out of a job, and the Obama Administration won’t get credit for getting them back to work, it looks like you win and Obama loses. But the American people lose. All of us. We all have a big stake in a healthy economy.

Obama understood our common stake in a healthy economy when the Bush Administration was trying to counteract the economic debacle in 2007 and 2008. Obama supported their efforts. It wasn’t his or a Democratic plan, but it was the only plan, so he supported it. McCain got the point when he temporarily closed down his campaign to try to take part in the solution being crafted in Washington. That was in the last months of the Bush Administration.

Then Obama took office. The Republicans quickly decided to fight everything, to stall the Obama Administration, to bring him down at all costs. For them, politics has been more important than the country. It’s not about Republican proposals, which the Democrats kept trying to incorporate but to no avail. It’s all about winning the game.

There’s neither loyalty nor patriotism in purely obstructive behavior, preferring to create a wasteland in order to rule over a defeated nation. They’ve been called “the party of no” and they glory in it. Saying “no” to the Democrats feels good. But there is no glory in extending the depression. The “party of no” is a fig leaf over the sacrifice of the great majority of Americans, those without jobs, those afraid their jobs will disappear, watching their retirement savings shrink, or taking in adult children who ought to be on their own but cannot yet support themselves because there aren’t jobs for them to fill.

I suppose if we let them get away with it we deserve to lose, along with our sacred honor. But who’s that “we”? The half of us that won’t be duped? The kids who can’t vote? How callous are we getting that some of us would back that kind of cynical abuse of the national trust. Election to office is a political trust. Misuse of office is a crime. Sacrificing the welfare of the country for political gain deserves permanent infamy.

The Tea Party is energizing the Republicans. Democrats are disappointed. I’m disappointed. But it isn’t Obama I’m disappointed with. When I voted for Obama, I voted for a man who promised to do his best for us. I was not voting for a superhuman creature who could snap his fingers and change the world. I’m a grownup and I know that image is all dream and no reality. And in the real world, people who understand what needs to happen, as Obama clearly does, and who try to deliver all they can for the rest of us, deserve our appreciation, our support, our respect, not our complaints that he should have had such eloquence that no one could stand in his way.

We can lament the failure of words up to now, and replace Obama by a glib feel good devil who paves the way to hell with pretty language. Take your choice. Who, or better, what, are you for?

 This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, September 6, 2010.

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