What President Barack Obama needs now is a very thick olive branch. For the next two years, Obama will likely resort to a little-used strategy to manage the Republican take-over of Congress: the art of compromise.
Now that Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Obama is already planning to meet with incoming GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over a glass of Kentucky Bourbon.
But it may take more than few shots of whiskey to bring Obama and McConnell to a political consensus on a range of critical issues. In Washington, “compromise” is such an ugly word. So here’s what a political gulf sounds like in the nation’s capital.
“Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign. I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like. That’s natural. That’s how our democracy works,” Obama said at a news conference Wednesday after a nationwide GOP beatdown.
“I don’t believe a thing he says,” Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Wednesday.
Many Republicans have no desire to work with Obama. They haven’t partnered with the president for the past six years and they probably won’t work with him tomorrow. I listened carefully to some Black folks who accused Rep. Marcia Fudge of being an alarmist.
Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, urged black voters to turn out strong to prevent the Republican control of the U.S. Senate. But they didn’t.
Two-thirds of the American public didn’t vote Tuesday, many of them African-Americans, citizens of color and young people. In Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties — the counties with the largest black populations — turnout was down 21% and 19%, respectively.
Some Black voters thought Fudge was running around screaming “the sky is falling” – but she was absolutely right: The sky did fall and it crushed Democrats all over the country.
Obama lost more Democratic seats in Congress (about 70) than any president in either party since WWII. But what does this stunning Republican landslide mean for African-Americans? Fudge says the GOP plans to cut domestic spending for health care, education and social service programs while also cutting minimum wage and rolling back Social Security.
She also believes Republicans will spend the next two years stalling Obama’s legislative agenda — initiatives that are designed to uplift African Americans, other people of color and the poor – and blocking important judicial appointments.
Democrats were desperate for Black voters to turn out in droves Tuesday to prevent the thumping that ultimately occurred. But did Democrats give African-Americans enough reason to vote?
And what about Democrats who ran from Obama? They distanced themselves from the President and still got clobbered. So much for that strategy. So now the Republicans run the show and Fudge is convinced that GOP leaders will soon move to impeach Obama. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t. But here’s where the subtly of compromise plays a pivotal role.
“On Friday, I look forward to hosting the entire Republican and Democratic leadership at the White House to chart a new course forward,” Obama said. “Obviously, Republicans had a good night, and they deserve credit for running good campaigns,” the President said.
“What stands out to me, though, is that the American people sent a message, one that they’ve sent for several elections now. They expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do. They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours. They want us to get the job done. All of us, in both parties, have a responsibility to address that sentiment.”
Today, Obama finds himself mired in his own teachable moment: He can grab a switch from the White House garden to whip Republicans — or he can offer them an olive branch.
The President has made some political missteps, but he vows to do whatever it takes over the next two years to help uplift the American people. I expect two years of dreadful partisan gridlock – but I believe him.
What do you think?