I have a confession: Veteran political strategists have political fantasies. Some of them are bipartisan in nature. Mine for this "lame duck" (end of the 111th) session of Congress is visualizing a dozen Rockettes standing outside the Senate and House Chambers.
As the departing (those scheduled to retire and the others fired by voters) senators and representatives exit, the Rockettes sing and dance in unison to, "You are soooooooo lame!"
Despite a resounding thunderclap from the ballot box, nothing has changed. Almost. The Republicans remain obstinate and obstructive of everything Democratic. They still believed voters sent a one-sided message just to President Obama.
Meanwhile, the Democrats changed: They rolled over and are playing dead.
They might as well have hung out a "gone fishing" sign. The fight has gone out of them to take on the Republicans. The only fight left in the Democrats was in their Caucus. There, a handful of Democrats blamed outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their re-election losses.
The Capitol Hill periodical Roll Call quoted Blue Dog Democrats Rep. Bobby Bright as complaining, "(Pelosi) was a major issue in my district. In fact, it was the only issue." I'm sorry, Bobby, but Nancy Pelosi was the only issue in every single incumbent Democratic district. The Republicans made it a national strategy to demonize Pelosi. However, the fact is that more Democrats were re-elected - even with the Republicans linking them to Pelosi - than lost.
Nevertheless, the election is history. What about the future? The lame duck Congress should have returned determined to continue to make history; determined to break the partisan logjam that is almost the exclusive creation of the Republican leadership.
But, as I mentioned, the fight seems to have gone out of them.
In the U.S. Senate, the Republicans blocked a bill ensuring equal pay for women. How ironic, considering this year was labeled "The Year of the Republican Woman."
So many Republican women believed the anti-incumbent wave would usher in a new era. Many of them filed and ran in greater numbers than ever before - even outnumbering women who sought a Democratic nomination. However, the base of the Republican Party is distinctly equality-challenged. They defeated women in droves. The result: Fewer women in Congress than before the election. And less political clout for those who are still there.
The president has reached an agreement with Russia for arms control, one originally initiated and produced by none other than President Ronald Reagan. Indiana's Sen. Richard Lugar, a key Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, endorsed its passage in this lame duck session. But he cannot move it because it would mean helping the president.
However, Arizona's Sen. John Kyl, whose vote is essential to its passage, announced he will not support the administration in bringing it to a vote. He said there was simply too much on the lame duck agenda to include something like our national security. In other words, they are too busy blocking other issues.
The only real fight in the lame Congress - we might as well drop the word "duck" - was between Sen. Mitch McConnell and the incoming Speaker- elect Rep. John Boehner. Boehner wants to abolish earmarks, the practice where members sponsor spending projects for their districts. McConnell wanted to keep them. In the end, McConnell caved.
If this Congress was performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the audience would have booed them off the stage.
So, why don't they all just go home? What we see here in this lame duck session is the preview of coming attractions in Congress. The Republicans have made clear that whether they are in the majority or part of the minority, they intend to rule - democracy be damned.
Their mantra is that their principles are too important to ever compromise. What about other people's principles? What about those elected officials who millions of Americans sent to Washington to represent their views?
What about the president's principles? Well, the Republicans made it clear last week that, in their view, his principles don't amount to pig's tracks.
I'm glad these lawmakers weren't present at the founding of our Constitution. I'm glad because the only way it passed was when Benjamin Franklin asked everyone to doubt their individual supreme wisdom just a bit, and accept the Constitution as the best they could get.
But, McConnell says the president's principles are too unacceptable to even consider compromising with. The same holds true for all Democrats, whether citizen or office-holder. When the Republicans were in the minority, they said, "No compromise. If you attempt to pass anything but our Republican goals, we won't let you govern."
They were true to their word. Nothing is going to happen in this lame duck Congress except for more obstruction. The Democrats don't even have a strategy yet. In the new session that will begin in January, the Republicans will insist the Congress consider only their goals. No Democratic proposals are even likely to reach the House floor from Republican-controlled committees. Just like old times when the other side had control.
Here's a message to the handful of moderates left in both the Republican and Democratic Parties: If you love democracy and your country, please speak up!
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