UPDATE: Upon seeing the initial comments, I’m concerned that folks read the headline, but not the story. So, I added a few words to the headline, in hopes of earning a reading. Let me know if it’s still unclear. — Scott Ott
Republicans should work hard to make President Obama look good.
Perhaps you’re thinking: “That’s not ‘work’ for Republicans. They do that effortlessly. Everything the GOP does seems to make Obama look good.”
That’s not what I mean.
Let me give you an example: Republicans fought the extension (of the extension) of unemployment benefits on the principle that when you reward something, you get more of it. They didn’t want more unemployment.
Democrats predicted that, if the benefits were not extended, America would look like the first 98% of Will Smith’s movie The Pursuit of Happyness, where he’s sleeping on the men’s room floor in the subway with his son.
Republicans, goaded by the fiscal conservatives among them, ended the president’s emergency extension of unemployment benefits. But wait. There’s more…
We now know that this policy choice coincided with the “steepest drop on record” in the “median length of unemployment” (from 17.1 weeks to 13.1 weeks), according to economist Robert Stein. That means unemployed people get jobs more quickly now.
And as America begins to look like the final 2% of The Pursuit of Happyness — wherein Will Smith gets hired by the big company — President Obama takes credit for what Charles Krauthammer calls (in the video below) “this excellent result.”
We saw the same thing in the Bill Clinton administration. When President Clinton moved to the middle and compromised with Republicans, we had greater opportunity and fewer people on the government dole, which all adds up to more dignity and prosperity.
Of course, the soundtrack for this accomplishment is “Hail to the Chief,” rather than “Hail to the Speaker of the House,” a song that awaits, in vain, a composer.
I’m not arguing that this is a politically desirable outcome, but that it’s worth it for the country for Republicans to humble themselves and do what’s right, even if the Democratic president gets exalted.
Here’s the problem: When Republican principles win, Obama wins. Because these timeless principles work, things get better and the president takes credit.
When Republican principles lose, Obama wins, because he can blame them for delay, divisiveness and obstructionism. The president attacks Republicans for “doing nothing” as they prevent Congress from allowing Obama to help the American people.
But Obama’s self-aggrandizing pronouncements and self-absolving accusations are the wrong gauge for measuring Republican accomplishment.
The salient, and essential, fact is this: When Republican principles win, the people win.
Therefore, Republicans should press for the implementation of policies based on Republican principles, not because it gives them bragging rights or helps them to win elections, but because it’s the best way to love people, especially your enemies.
That’s right. If Republicans were to do actually what the party claims to believe theoretically, everyone would benefit — the rich and the poor, in all regions of the country, of all races and creeds and political viewpoints. Opportunity, equal justice, and prosperity would be in reach for everyone. Even President Obama — perhaps especially Obama — benefits from the implementation of Republican principles.
The political hacks and consultants may be right about the electoral consequences of this. Republicans have been frustrated because Mr. Obama seems to get credit for their successes and yet they take the blame for his failures — and there’s a lot more of the latter than of the former.
Granted. But let’s deal with reality, shall we?
I understand that Republicans don’t want to make President Obama look good, because it means that Democrats might hold the Senate in November. Republicans believe, with good historical reason, that the president will more effectively lay claim to an improving economy than will Republican candidates. As a result, the ill-informed average voter will return the president’s party to power in the Senate.
A couple of old sayings guide my view of this, and of most other circumstances:
“There are two things you should never worry about: things you can change and things you can’t change.”
“There are problems, and then there are facts of life. Only the former can be fixed.”
You can’t change facts of life, no matter how much you worry or whine.
But I believe that America still yearns for a party that will act with integrity according to bedrock principle no matter the personal consequences to the politicians.
Republicans could become that party.
That party believes that winning elections is a means to an end, not the end in itself.
That party believes that you don’t frame policy to win elections, you win elections to get the right to frame policy. Reversing that formula has led to the absurd process of running for office so that you can run for office — of holding power for the sake of holding power — while rarely, if ever, living by the principles or accomplishing the goals which initially spurred you to run for office.
In fairness, the way the Congressional deck is stacked at the moment makes it difficult for Republicans to accomplish anything beyond obstruction of the president’s agenda.
If they want the right to turn their principles into policy, then they should develop the reputation of doing what’s right for the American people, regardless of the political consequences. Stopping the extension of unemployment benefits was a step in the right direction.
President Obama looks good, thanks to Republicans.
But all that really matters, is that man or woman who emerges from the soul-crushing indignity of dependency.