Advertisement

Opinion

Opinion

Obama likely to need more Republican support

August 1, 2010

Advertisement

— Even as he steps up his campaigning and fundraising for Democratic candidates, President Barack Obama appears to be adjusting mentally and emotionally to the prospect that his post-election life will feature more dealings with Republicans.

The history of past midterm elections shows regular gains for the opposition party and so far, all the polls look upbeat for the GOP. This is why there’s more talk these days in White House circles about measures that might attract bipartisan support. And why one insider says, “If you asked the president what he would really like for Christmas, it would be a smart loyal opposition.”

Of course, Obama’s definition of what would constitute wise, far-sighted Republican policy may bear no resemblance to what John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, the GOP leaders in Congress, have in mind. But he’s probably not expecting the kind of relationship that Lyndon Johnson enjoyed with Everett Dirksen, the Senate Republican leader who provided the votes that allowed passage of the great civil rights statutes of the 1960s.

Obama would be well pleased if he could have someone resembling what he recalls hearing about Bob Dole or Howard Baker, Republican Senate leaders who mostly opposed Democratic presidents but made common cause with them on certain national and international issues.

For instance, it is clear that if Obama seeks Senate approval of the stalled free trade agreement with South Korea — a step that would shore up his Asian foreign policy and end the impasse on trade — he will need a higher percentage of votes from Republicans than he is likely to get from Democrats.

Similarly, the extension of the basic elementary and secondary education aid bill, a priority that has slipped from this year to next, becomes much more manageable if Republican votes can be added to make up for any losses among Democrats who may be swayed by opposition from teachers unions or civil rights organizations. This is why Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are always careful to credit George W. Bush for laying the groundwork for their own reforms with his No Child Left Behind program.

It is more difficult to imagine how Obama will enlist Republican help on some of his other priorities. When the bipartisan commission on debt and deficits reports in December, many in the White House are doubtful that enough Republicans will sign on to provide at least 14 of 18 votes required for a consensus. But at minimum, its majority report is expected to point to a plausible formula for budgetary discipline and, with pressure from the president, force the congressional Republicans to come up with their own plan — not just say no.

Obama is resigned to the fact that he will have to try again for energy and climate legislation, but how to make it bipartisan remains a puzzle. And immigration legislation remains a challenge, not only because of the political focus on the Arizona law dispute, but even more, in Obama’s view, because of the moral imperative for restoring law on the border and ending the stigma of noncitizenship.

As the problem of long-term joblessness has drawn increasing White House attention, thoughts have turned again to the need for large-scale investment in all kinds of infrastructure projects, electronic as well as physical. Obama has set staffers to searching for innovative ways to finance such projects, with some form of public-private partnership, and has asked them to invite Republicans to come forward with ideas that could significantly reduce the ranks of seemingly permanent unemployed construction workers.

Visitors to the White House get no sense that Obama accepts as valid the widespread Republican complaint that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid have systematically excluded the GOP members and their ideas. But if the election goes as most observers expect, Obama seems ready to test the Republicans for himself. As he has sometimes remarked, he is not the classic party animal.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. davidbroder@washpost.com

Comments

Tom Shewmon 3 years, 8 months ago

O-P-R will ge exactly what they deserve. No sympathy from TS. Next year is projected to be a record-setting year for Mr. & Mrs. TS and we are bracing. When taxes come due in early 2012, we're preparing to for the worst case scenario.

0

Centerville 3 years, 8 months ago

Helping out Zippy: That's why we need to send Jerry Moran to the US Senate. /sarc

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Electing Republicans-- that's kind of like if you smash your thumb with a hammer, picking up the hammer again and smashing your other thumb to relieve the pain.

0

TrooGrit 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with corky, he just needs more time. I for one, am going to see to it, that he doesn't get it!

0

Flap Doodle 3 years, 8 months ago

Destroying America is a bigger job than the Community Organizer in Chief thought.

0

cato_the_elder 3 years, 8 months ago

Only Broder can write an entire column on Obama's need for Republican support and fail to mention the fact that Republicans have unwaveringly supported most of Obama's Afghanistan policies while significant numbers of Democrats have opposed them.

0

ibroke 3 years, 8 months ago

corky--- thats so funny lmao

0

CorkyHundley 3 years, 8 months ago

Democrats have been in control of America for years Draining the Swamp. Why do they need Republicans? Republicans are just a footnote in todays society. Why are they so important to Obama now? Democrats rule the roost. They own the country lock stock and barrel. They will save us all from ourselves. They just need time. They need time to print fiat money. They need time to treat people with government healthcare. They need time to solve the issues in Iran. They need time to replace Wall Street.

They need time.

0

sunny 3 years, 8 months ago

Absolutely NO support from me!

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.