Bi-Partisanship is for suckers, apparently.
Yes, as predicted by many, despite cowing and putting in useless tax cuts (that helped us so much in the past eight years while the GOP was spending like mad) and taking out contraception (because every knows that the way to increase a family's spending power is help them have unplanned pregnancies), President Obama's stimulus plan passed the house without one Republican vote.
Many bloggers are speculating that Obama should learn from this, and understand that the Republicans are not acting in good faith. But it's become so obvious that Obama can't possibly not know. After eight years of a spending free-for-all, Republicans suddenly claim they are the party of fiscal responsiblity. And those "Main-Street-real-heartland" Americans the GOP loves so much? Helping them out instead of giving tax cuts to the wealthy during a financial crisis is socialism, even though they were more then willing to help out those poor Wall Street investors. These are also the same Republicans that were screaming about there not being enough to "create jobs" in the stimulus (never quite explaining why), right on the tail of screaming that we have to let the big three auto companies fail even if it means massive job losses, merely because of their hatred of unions.
Rush Limbaugh has publicly come out and stated he wants Obama to fail (because to hell with the American people, I got mine, right?), and Republicans that dared speak out against that statement have now cowed and admitted that Limbaugh rules their world. And as for claiming to be the party of the true American people, they have a funny way of showing it, being that they honestly think birth control and bipartisanship are the most important things about this bill, rather then, you know, a financial crisis that has millions of Americans facing job losses or foreclosed homes.
But despite the fact that the Republicans are playing games while we are teetering at the edge of a depression, and despite the fact they have made it fairly obvious that they would have the country fail if they can take down Obama with it, the new President still catered to them put in those tax cuts and took out contraception in a show of "bi-partisanship", because he wanted at least some of their votes. Is Obama really that naive? Or is this part of an ongoing strategy, like some are speculating?
I think it may be the later, but for a few reasons. Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight (who is rarely wrong)thinks that this could actually work out really bad for the Republicans. And I agree with him. Polling indicates that the majority of Americans support the stimulus. And someone losing their home or job probably doesn't actually care that much about women not being punished enough for having sex.
Republicans have always been very good at pulling the bi-partisan card, and defining it as "agree with everything the Republicans do". Democrats just can't get a leg up on this one, if they cave, they are spineless, if they fight, they are obstructionists. But this might turn the tables on that, because it is now on record that despite Obama accommodating some of the Republicans' demands, they still opposed the bill unanimously. This may portray to the public a complete lack of bipartisanship on behalf of the Republicans, which would render their arguments about Obama's bipartisanship in the future void. They could also frame themselves as a barrier to the "change" that Obama ran on, which will please the hardcore base, but may alienate those that voted for a change in Washington. The compromises that Obama and Democrats did make on the bill are well known (thanks in part to the over-hyped and oft-repeated opposition to contraception funding in the stimulus), showing that it wasn't Obama and the Democrats holding this up, it was the Republicans and only the Republicans. If even a couple of Republicans had voted for the bill, or if the compromises didn't get as much air time, the status quo would have been maintained (and in reality, this may all be moot, as the success of Obama's policies and the state of the economy will probably end up being the true judgment). But the unanimous vote shows the same partisanship and group-think mentality that people voted to get rid of in the past election.
So this could work out well for Obama. He can now say that he tried to reach out to Republicans, only to be "slapped in the face". And so the next time, with the next bill the Democrats try to pass, they can fall back on the argument that they tried the bi-partisan road, and it failed, leading to no obligation to try again in the future. The Republicans have outed themselves as a party that can't play nicely, and that puts ideology ahead of the welfare of the American people and economy. It will be hard for Republicans to keep up their "we are the ones that really care about "real" Americans" shtick when the public sees them actively screwing them over and refusing to work on a bill that would help many "real" Americans out, particularly after watching them attack the auto unions and bail out the banks so that they can try to buy luxury limited edition jets (which Obama wisely called them on).
Every time the GOP marches in lockstep, listens to the wingnuts, and puts themselves and their pride above the country, it works out bad for them. The Terri Schiavo debacle left a bad taste in the mouths of many moderate Republicans and Independents. It showed the county that either these guys will go too far regardless of what the public actually thinks, or these guys are actually, despite their claims otherwise, completely out of touch with the public. This could work out the same way. The country now knows now where the Republicans stand, thanks to this unanimous vote, Limbaugh's statements and those Republicans in congress licking his boots and declaring him their mouthpiece, and the media surge by Republicans that made sure that Americans were paying close attention. As a result, the American people now know that Republicans would rather see the country fail then see Obama and the Democrats in congress accomplish anything.
Which probably isn't going to work out well for them.