Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Step Forward On Strategery

This is both faintly encouraging and tremendously concerning. It's faintly encouraging because it suggests it is at least theoretically possible to persuade Republican Senators that there actually exists issues for which the government actually has to do something, even if President Obama likes the idea.

On the other hand, it's tremendously concerning because allowing this bill to pass with a small smattering of "yes" votes is the final piece in the GOP strategy for the current Congress. Ever since the Democrats gained their impressive majority the Republicans having been stonewalling to an extent both ludicrous and unprecedented. As usual, the media has bent over backwards in its attempts to argue that both parties are to blame, by constantly insisting that bipartisanship is to be valued over achievement, and more importantly that in a situation where one side is holding the other to ransom, the only "bipartisan" approach worth a damn is to pay the ransom in its entirety, and wait to see whether or not more will be demanded later.

There was always at least a slight risk that the GOP would overplay their hand, though. Sooner or later it would be obvious to the public that the Republicans and their supporters in the media were taking the word "bipartisanship" and redefining it as "capitulation".

That's why this latest move is so smart. First, by playing the spoiled child for so long the Republicans have ended up with a jobs bill already suited to their tastes, because everyone in the Senate is now so desperate for co-operation the idea of writing a left-of-centre (or even plain old centre) bill is now viewed as utterly absurd. Second, the GOP can now point to this vote every single time someone argues that they are reflexively blocking everything that comes their way.

Third, and most worryingly, they've demonstrated their willingness to work in a "bipartisan" fashion just three days before the healthcare summit. Scurrilous hacks like David Broder have already spent the last year insisting that there is literally nothing the Republicans can demand without Obama/Reid being in the wrong if they don't immediately agree to it, and now those same people can spin the summit with pathetic "arguments" to the tune of "If the GOP will co-operate on jobs, the only reason they won't co-operate on HCR must be that it isn't bipartisan enough".

It's hard to be impressed by the GOP (or some amongst) managing to figure out their long-term strategy was fundamentally flawed to the point where even someone with no political training (i.e. me) could work it out. It's also hard to be impressed by the fact that the party with a significant media advantage has simply found a way to not piss that advantage down the drain.

Nevertheless, it remains a smart move, and this close to the summit, I'm definitely worried.

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