I’ve seen a fair amount of convention wisdom chatterers (Morning Joe today, among others) complaining that Obama demanding a vote for actions on gun safety and other things “is too small,” and acting incredulous: “That’s all he’s asking for? A vote?” They’re inside the Beltway and pay total attention to politics. They forget most people outside of Washington don’t pay much attention to politics, and have no idea the Republicans have blocked so much stuff and kept it from coming to a vote. Most folks just know things aren’t happening. Obama was reminding people directly, without the “balanced” filter of the media, that the Republicans in Congress these days are all about obstruction and petty politics, and not about governing.
As usual, Obama is playing a different game than most of the Beltway pundits think he’s playing. I’m not one of those people who think Obama is forever playing eleven-dimensional chess and out-thinking his opponents; he’s obviously made plenty of mistakes. But after four years, it’s clear that he knows how to think a few moves ahead of the average Congresscritter or Beltway pundit. Obama has always understood the long game, and has been willing to sacrifice pawns or rooks to eventually sweep the board. Sometimes his willingness to do so has pissed me off; he dealt away the public option with the Affordable Care Act, which I think was a mistake then and now from a policy standpoint. But he did get the law passed, and it did survive the Supreme Court. After 50 years of trying, that’s no small achievement.
The Republican response today was strangely muted and entirely predictable. No to increasing the minimum wage, with a repeat of the disproved talking point that increased wages slow economic growth. Bluster about how “America has a spending problem” and painting the federal deficit as the biggest challenge we face, with no understanding that the deficit is actually shrinking at the fastest pace in recent history.
I was going to talk about Marco Rubio’s official response, but it’s awfully difficult, because he didn’t really say anything at all. As I said on Twitter,
Rubio’s speech was a perfect example of the sclerotic thinking of the GOP’s ideology. No consistency, no new ideas.
This analysis of Rubio’s speech is as good as any other I’ve seen. It’s obvious that the Republican Party is such a prisoner of its ideology that it can’t come up with anything new at this point. Any new ideas draw primary challenges from the multiple right-wing groups competing to be the most reactionary. I suspect they will have to lose another few elections to get to the point where they can rethink things. Or perhaps Dori is right, and the GOP will simply cease to exist over the next decade, as they become ever more trapped and unable to change.
I’m not surprised that the President’s speech got a good poll response. It showed that he wanted to get things done. His opponents think keeping Obama from getting credit for good things (or for anything) is more important than anything else, including the health and prosperity of the country.