Step Away from the Rock

President Obama went today to talk to GOP members of the House at their retreat in Maryland. To the shock of no one, he reiterated his plea for bipartisanship. He asked, AGAIN, for an end to the legislative gridlock – stating that the American people don’t want “Washington to continue being so Washington-like.”

After chiding them a bit for the party-line votes that stalled the stimulus bill, and patting them on the back for being willing to spend freely in Afghanistan, he closed with, “I'm ready and eager to work with anyone who is willing to proceed in the spirit of goodwill.”

(sigh) Isn’t he adorable?

Despite how exasperated I am by his optimism, I am impressed with his perseverance. He has a dogged belief in the basic goodness of the GOP that is just amazing, and as far as I can see, completely unfounded. I like to think of him as an incredibly eloquent Charlie Brown, trying, time and again, to kick the bipartisan football - he always seems to believe that TODAY is the day the Lucys of the GOP are not going to yank it away.

Unfortunately, the failure archetypes that suit this situation best are not Charlie Brown and Lucy, but Sisyphus and the rock. Obama trudges up the hill, pushing the bipartisan boulder before him, only to watch it tumble down again. The key difference in these two visions of the president’s efforts is that while Charlie Brown could, conceivably, some day, actually kick the ball, Sisyphus is cursed to fail for eternity.

The French absurdist Albert Camus insisted “one must imagine Sisyphus happy" because "the struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." Obama runs the risk here of becoming this absurd hero, living only to struggle at a task that can never be realized. That is a lovely way to be remembered by history and I’m sure it would warm his heart in his golden years to know that he stuck to his principles, but I’d rather remember him as the president who pulled us out of the trench dug by the Bush hegemony. Maybe even just as the guy who let gays serve openly in the military – anything is better than recalling him as the president who best impersonated Wile E. Coyote.

The only thing that has ever created bipartisanship in our government is war – we are usually pretty unified in kicking the shit out of someone – and even on that it’s not much of a stretch across the aisle for Republicans, who are mostly gun-loving hawks anyway. Bipartisan governance has never existed in any democracy – hell, even Julius Caesar had to deal with filibusters by Cato the Younger. Factionalism is actually an integral part of how democracies have always worked – Obama needs to stop trying to undo human nature.

In fact, Mr. President, you just need to accept it. They are never going to join with you, never going to let you succeed, and while I can admire your impressive stomach for failure, we all need you to get some shit done before the political pendulum swings back to the right. Once that happens, they are just going to claim the Democrats strong-armed them anyway – if you’re going to be accused of it regardless, you might as well go ahead and do it. Change the cloture rules, kill the filibuster, do whatever it takes, but swing the sledgehammer the American people have given the Democrats, and let the GOP push the rock for a while.

3 comments:

Ducky said...

They will never let you kick the football. It is a wonderful ideal, but they've been given the chance to participate and have chosen not too. When they feel like having an intelligent dialogue then they can rejoin the discussion.

Raksha said...

"hell, even Julius Caesar had to deal with filibusters by Cato the Younger"

Yeah, but in the Roman senate, you actually got to kick the shit out of your fellow senators if they pissed you off enough.


On another note, I've been trying to call you for days, but every time I do someone's either on the phone or just got off the phone after draining the battery dry. ARGH!

His Sinfulness said...

Yeah, when Cato the Younger filibustered, Caesar just put him in jail...

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