Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Risky Strategy

I had a feeling that the Republican strategy of playing hardball with the popular new president was not a wise one. I also had a feeling that President Obama's call for a port-partisan era was brilliant--nothing to lose and much to gain. Well the post-stimulus bill numbers are out and it looks like the president won this battle. According to a FOX News poll, 66% of Americans feel that President Obama has "sincerely tried to reach out to Republicans and be bipartisan" while 33% of Americans "have sincerely tried to be helpful to Barack Obama and be bipartisan in drafting the economic stimulus and spending plan." An AP-Gfk poll corroborates the findings: 62% of Americans feel President Obama is cooperating "about the right amount" with Republicans in Congress whereas 64% feel Republicans are not cooperating enough with the new president. In both polls, Obama is pulling in 60% plus in approval ratings.

In 1981, a number of Congressional Democrats, despite opposition from Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill (D-MA), helped President Reagan pass his first budget--a budget that was loaded with tax and spending cuts that were anathema to Democrats. The electoral landslide of 1980 showed Reagan had an electoral mandate to govern and take the country in a different direction. By having enough Democrats cross the aisle to vote for the Reagan budget, Democrats were able to avoid being viewed as obstructionist. The GOP of 2009 has decided to look to a different playbook and oppose the president from the very beginning. No honeymoon, no cooperation, not even one vote in the House. This is a risky strategy given the state of the American economy, the pain many Americans are feeling, and the declining numbers of Republican identifiers in the electorate and dwindling numbers in Congress.

Americans like bipartisanship, they don't like obstructionism. If Americans sense that the GOP is hell-bent on slapping away the new presidents extended hand of cooperation, that will spell doom for the Republican Party.

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