Last year’s Super Bowl ad for Chrysler with Clint Eastwood, “Half-time in America,” created quite a stir. I remember commentators, especially on the right, saying that the ad was an early campaign commercial for President Obama as a thank you for the 2009 bailout. Well, if Clint Eastwood believed this was a thank you note to Obama, his empty chair routine at the GOP national convention dispelled that.
That the Chrysler ad, which was tremendous, could generate such partisan speculation exposed how polarized the political debate (a generous description, really) had become in this country. It was an ad for a car company that happened to come as this nation was emerging from its worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. The attacks leveled against the ad showed that our politics had become an acrimonious cesspool.
No wonder we couldn’t get anything done in Washington. No wonder the people in this nation are so frustrated with our political leadership because if they square off over an automobile company ad during the Super Bowl could they really come to terms on issues of real importance?
So, I wonder has something changed in the last year? Most notably we see Republicans and Democrats trying to forge legislation to reform immigration – they’re tantalizing close. Then again, it could fall apart.
That the end of 2012 saw some sort of budget deal was a vague positive sign. Boehner bypassed the Hastert rule, which only brings legislation forward if there is a majority of the majority to pass it, and passed the deal with Democrats. This is how the House should operate; the Hastert rule is oppressive.
While the GOP has said its stuff about the State of the Union address, I think a lot of it was political theater. Still, there seems to be some bi-partisan movement towards limiting high-capacity gun clips and comprehensive background checks. Banning assault weapons is still too far to go some lawmakers (as inexplicable as that may be).
I’m beginning to think that these might be first signs that the hyper-partisanship in Washington may come to an end. It’s crazy for Congress to be so dysfunctional when we have so many problems. The members of Congress can’t be entirely stupid or oblivious to the dissatisfaction coming from both the left and the right over their bickering, and that the nation’s collective disgust may be nudging them to be more reasonable.
It also doesn’t hurt that the extremists in the GOP are taking positions well to the right of most of the nation. The Democrats came through with Obama’s re-election, picking up seats in the Senate, and exceeding the GOP vote total in the House (It’s still controlled by the GOP because the state legislatures under GOP control successfully gerrymandered the districts). GOP leadership has started to take notice that staying hard on the right may not be a winning formula for 2014.
What I’ve come to sense about Obama is he doesn’t play for the short term. He has a longer term vision than the next quarter or even the next year. He seemed to cave to the GOP throughout his first term, but their unyielding opposition painted them as unreasonable and they paid a price in 2012, which also allows him to push policies which are little more to the left because their opposition in the first term positioned them as unreliable governing partners. So, in the end, Obama looks like he will get more of what he wanted while rendering the GOP a little less strident.
Obama came into office in 2009 to change the culture in Washington. I’m beginning to think he may leave office in 2017 with a less partisan atmosphere in Washington.