By Ali Frick
I want to build off of Ryan’s post below a bit. Ryan pointed out that the existing atmosphere is irrevocably partisan, and that Obama seems — finally — to be noticing:
Noting that sometimes conservative activists portray him with a Hitler moustache, Obama seemed to put to rest any notion that there could be broad-based bipartisan cooperation – something he promised to try to bring to Washington during his 2008 campaign.
“There are members of their base who think if somebody even smiles at me, they think, ‘You’re a traitor. You smiled at Obama,’ ” the president said at fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). “The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership.”
There is hardly any “room for cooperation” in the Republican Party, Obama said.
That was a quote from last night. But just hours before, the Obama administration announced it would agree to right-wing demands and send troops to the Mexican border — even though a) the move comes without a full compromise on comprehensive reform and b) troops at the border won’t stop illegal immigration, and c) Obama knows it’s a bad idea (from March: “We’ve got a very big border with Mexico,” the president said. “I’m not interested in militarizing the border.”).
But the larger point is that, if Obama believes what he said last night, then he knows that the move won’t do a thing to bring conservatives to the table on comprehensive immigration reform. (And, as Ryan points out, there seems to be little that could bring conservatives and progressive together right now.)
I guess the strategy is for Obama to constantly reach out to conservatives with compromise, only to have his hand slapped away. Over and over and over again. And then he can go out and say things like he said last night.
The problem with this strategy is two-fold: First, conservatives just make stuff up. They say he is a partisan hack who refuses to compromise — even when this is patently and obviously untrue — and hope enough people are ignorant for them to win. Too often, that strategy works.
Second, when Obama does go to fire up the base as he did last night, those of us there start to wonder whether he actually believes what he’s saying. If he does, we wonder why he keeps reaching out, repeatedly demonstrating his good faith by acceding to central conservative demands (supporting offshore oil drilling, scrapping a public option, ditching an independent CFPA) before negotiations on the larger reform have begun.
On the other hand, it is effective for Obama to point out every time Republicans refuse to work with him — and even more effective when he looks at what conservatives really want to do and points out why it’s so dangerous to America. “You can’t drive!” not only fires up the base, but drives home (excuse the pun) the fundamental point: Conservatives and progressives aren’t working together because these people are maniacs.