After his party was handed a historic defeat by the electorate, President Obama is returning to one of the promises of his presidential campaign, bipartisanship. The principal of bipartisanship was a routine part of candidate Obama’s stump speech all through 2008, and was a constant theme running throughout the campaign. Even during his election night victory speech President Elect Obama said “In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
Ironically, after assuming power, President Obama turned out to be one the most hyper partisan leaders our country has seen in generations. Even the tone of his inauguration speech was not the hope and change of the campaign trail, and some might say that his obvious jabs at President Bush were petty. Things did not improve thereafter. Shortly after coming into office President Obama held a meeting on the proposed stimulus package. Congressional Republicans were concerned at the size and scope of the package, and also had ideas as to what should or shouldn’t be in the pork laden bill. The candidate who ran on bipartisanship and was now President had a simple answer to their concerns, “I won.”
During 2009 Democrats literally changed the locks on doors to keep Republicans out of meeting rooms. Nancy Pelosi was willing to rewrite rules to ensure that she got her way. The same Nancy Pelosi that fought for a “minority party bill of rights” in the house was all to willing employ rule changes, including changing house ethics rules that she helped write. Leaders of the Democratic party were following the President’s highly partisan lead.
So which President Obama will Republican law makers be dealing with? Will they be dealing with the candidate that promised to change the tone in Washington, or the President that poisoned the well of bipartisanship during his first two years? Will law makers be working with the party that promised to “drain the swamp” or the party that will has given us Rangel, Waters, and Frank? Will they be dealing with the party that values dissent as the highest form of patriotism, or the party that labels any dissent from the President’s policies as Un-American and racist? Will they be dealing with the President who values and respects diverse opinions, or the President that admonishes the Supreme Court while miss characterizing its ruling during his State of the Union Address?
Ironically, if the President Obama is going to succeed over the next two years, he needs both hope and change. He had better hope that the Republicans have a short memory of what the President considered “bipartisan” just a few months ago and he is going to have to change his policy agenda and moderate his positions. Otherwise Obama will be a one term President.