Obama, GOP must find way to work together

November 6, 2010


The dramatically transformed political landscape created by Tuesday’s election puts a heavy burden on President Barack Obama and the GOP leadership to change their approach to the issues and to each other.

Otherwise, the result will be more partisan gridlock, something that would be bad for the country and for whichever side the voters blame two years from now.

Obama needs to reach out to the GOP as a party, seeking common ground with its leaders as a group, instead of just lobbying individual Republicans to back his programs.

That may mean changing his approach on some issues, seeking compromises on trade, energy and the extension of Bush-era tax cuts and trying to develop common areas for cutting federal spending.

Similarly, Republicans have to drop their insistence that Obama accept their approach on major policies and go beyond generalities about cutting spending to accept substantive compromises on an overall approach to long-term deficit control, including taxes.

After Tuesday’s sweeping GOP victories, Obama and top Republican leaders expressed predictable generalities about working together. But neither showed much sign of moving off pre-election stances.

John Boehner, scheduled to become the next House speaker, said the GOP wants to extend the Bush tax cuts and repeal Obama’s health care plan. Obama said he didn’t think the American people wanted “to spend the next two years refighting the political battles of the last two” but added he is open to compromises on energy and education.

They will get a chance to show they can work together when Congress returns in 10 days for its lame-duck session. Lawmakers will have to deal with extending the Bush tax cuts, lest they expire at year’s end, and the government’s spending authority, which runs out Dec. 3.

One place for both to show flexibility will be within Obama’s bipartisan debt commission, which faces a Dec. 1 deadline for proposing a long-term deficit control plan that could involve taxes, annual federal spending and entitlements.

That could require Democrats to agree to curb some future Social Security benefits and Republicans to accept some tax increases. And both parties face internal pressures that make compromises difficult.

The Republicans could be caught between independents who gave them a share of the power to govern, in hopes of spurring efforts to seek common ground, and tea party activists who want them to stand firm for conservative principles against compromise.

These contradictory forces could collide when Congress votes early next year on extending the legal ceiling on the national debt.

The GOP’s new responsibility to share governing makes it far harder for its leaders to oppose this as a symbolic protest against federal spending, because one result could be to prevent the government from functioning.

Democrats, meanwhile, could be caught between their desire to maintain Obama’s course, in the belief it ultimately will prove correct, and the broader electorate’s pressure for changes.

He did say he is open to proposals that would improve his health care plan but made clear he’ll resist GOP efforts to repeal it or block funds to implement it.

One way for Obama to signal he understands voter dissatisfaction would be to revamp a White House staff whose communications and political operatives have ill-served his presidency. None of this will be easy.

Obama indicated he is likely to resist any but the most modest changes to his basic agenda, lest he further upset party liberals who believe he already has compromised too much.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell already signaled GOP desire to maintain its negative approach by declaring his main goal is to deny Obama re-election.

For both sides, the stakes are large. The same voters who blamed Obama and the Democrats for the persistence of national economic problems also have shown they won’t hesitate to find a different target next time.

— Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. carl.p.leubsdorf@gmail.com


cato_the_elder 7 years, 7 months ago

More pablum from a loser whose heroes have just taken it on the chin. Republicans cannot ignore the message overwhelmingly sent to them by the voters to rein in Obama's profligacy, while Obama is a committed, hard-left ideologue who is congenitally indisposed toward the species of realpolitik reluctantly considered and finally practiced by Bill Clinton after 1994 when he accepted measures put forth by Republicans in order to enact welfare reform, for example, and ultimately balance the budget.

Gridlock it will be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

That was funny, Carl. Republicans long ago redefined "compromise" as "It's our way or the highway."

gchawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Another fine example of the pot calling the kettle black. Most liberals are content with a person having an opinion or stance, as long as it's the same as theirs. With a Liberal Senate and Conservative House we may, just possibly, have a chance of a effective checks and balances Congress, stranger things have happened.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

As Dear Leader has said, some Americans are our enemies.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

This comment pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to refer to someone on the sinister side of the aisle.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

There is no single, clear message from this election.

Clearly, many have rejected Obama (just as they did in 2008) because they are Republicans.

But a very equal message is that many who voted for Obama in 2008 are very disappointed, but definitely do not want what Republicans would like to cram down our throats.

If Republicans take this as a mandate to resume the same crap that has us in our current mess, things will only get worse for everyone over the next two years, and probably much longer.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

"The people have spoken...it's up to the Annointed One to listen ..."

Are you the teabagger who made the "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" sign? Sorry, but the people also elected Obama. He was not anointed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

".all of the polls clearly show that the majority (as much as 70%) object to Obamacare, Cap and Tax, Stimulus, this administration's stand on immigration, etc."

Those polls don't contradict what I said at all. I object to all of the above policies, but the last thing I want is what Republicans would like to do instead.

libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

This poll shows that the number of people who want the health care bill to remain the same or be expanded lost to those who favor repeal by...wait for it...wait for it...1 FREAKING POINT!

You got any polls to back up your 70% assertion?


libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

And before any one links to a Rasmussen poll, it was the only one I saw in my quick search that approached anything even close to 70%, chew on this.


Rasmussen, in conjunction with FOX, is a crappy, biased poll that has performed abysmally for the last 2 election cycles.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Your assertion that he is governing "from the left" is incorrect.

Many on the left are quite disappointed with his policies, and perceive that he has failed to deliver on his promises to them.

"Obamacare" is far from being a left-winger's dream, as it is a giveaway to insurance companies without a public option even included.

He has not repealed the Patriot Act, has failed to close Gitmo, has not advocated on behalf of gays in the military, etc.

libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

This nation may be center right nation temporarily. But guess what, old white people are dying at a pretty steady rate, meanwhile young people, and especially young, brown people are reproducing even faster. This open letter from anti-racism researcher Tim Wise sums the situation up pretty well. Enjoy it while it lasts! Peace.


jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Nobody on the left wants to "compromise national security".

Gay marriage may in fact be a constitutional issue, not something that should be decided by a majority vote of the electorate.

Slippery slope arguments are always, well, slippery.

Who defines the "center"?

libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

Follow the link. People a lot smarter than me analyze this stuff by using actual statistics and Rasmussen was horrible. Still waiting for you to provide links to "some" polls.

When minorities, the young and liberals turn out at their 2008 levels, and we take a "shellacking" like this, then I'll worry. Till then not so much.

verity 7 years, 7 months ago

Obama needs to dance with those who brung him---the moderate left of center. He abandoned his base. He wasn't too liberal, he caved---to the right, to corporations.

Unfortunately, I don't see anyone out there who is up to the job of leading the United States and as such, being a major influence in the world. Maybe that is just asking too much of one person. But we are sadly lacking in leadership right now.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps we should focus a bit more on solving our own problems and creating a society that works well, and less on being a major influence on other countries.

Then the job of being president would be more manageable, and most likely more in line with what the founders intended.

verity 7 years, 7 months ago

jafs, that sound good, but even if we became isolationists (which at this point may not be possible), we would still have a major effect on the world. Our economies are too intertwined and ours is too big not to have an effect.

Maybe the only answer is for the various leaders in our country of whatever party or persuasion to start cooperating and compromising and working together for the good of all instead of the purposeful divisiveness and hatred. That way all the responsibility would not fall so much on one person. Well, I can dream, can't I?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

As can I.

I've been advocating for that quite a bit.

We seem to be moving in the opposite direction, though, unfortunately.

If we fixed our own problems and system, then whatever effects our economy has on the rest of the world would be more positive though, don't you think?

verity 7 years, 7 months ago

"If we fixed our own problems and system, then whatever effects our economy has on the rest of the world would be more positive though, don't you think?"


gchawk 7 years, 7 months ago

"....for all the people, by all the people". Does this sound at all familiar to you?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 7 months ago

You don't hear much anymore about the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan or the Michigan Militia and their associates any more. But they are out there, they have combined agendas and oozed into the back door of the Republican Party of No in the United States.

If you take enought time to study history, you will see an example of this in Germany in the q930's when there was terrible economic distress, unemployment and general maliase in the political scene. The people looked for a strong leader and they got one. Thy fawned, saluted, and celebrated the new leader, until to was too late to realize just what the befuddled electorate had done.

This is not to say that such a prospect is waiting in the U.S. but the behaviors that are being presented today are frighteningly familiar to those who study history, and as one writer once said, "those who fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Think of that next time you are moved to agree with the nitwits who will come and tell you that we need to destroy the black, Kenyan Muslim dude who's in infecting the White House. You will be falling into the same trap as the German population of the 1930's when their government was destroyed by brown-shirt bullies.

verity 7 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately you are dead on.

It's one thing for the Republicans and others to be against "Obama's agenda," but their outspoken desire to cause him to fail is simply traitorous.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

There was one message that was pretty clear -- most Americans don't want to elect teabaggers to national positions.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

This comment pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to refer to someone on the sinister side of the aisle.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

What vulgar term would that be snap? Teabagger has but one meaning in a political context. I'll bet you are the kind who giggled every time you heard our former vice president's name.

libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

I haven't seen a number on that, but it was less then 65% genius. And conservative dems lost at a much greater rate than liberals. A lot of that was their district I realize, but you are delusional if you think "liberalism" was the issue. Keep hallucinating though, it only makes it easier, and funnier, to watch the demise of the modern day Confederacy.

beatrice 7 years, 7 months ago

"I'm not a witch."

That was one seat the teabaggers lost that the Republicans would have won otherwise. Also, Harry Reid won in Nevada because people really didn't like his Tea Party opponent. Harry Reid! That one should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans this election.

It will be interesting to see what exactly the folks that did get elected can do for the Tea Party. My guess is it will be little more than a bad joke in two years.

voevoda 7 years, 7 months ago

This year, the Republicans had a better propaganda machine than the Democrats. Most of the rhetoric the Republican lobby used is not based on reality. There is no "government takeover of health care." No "creeping socialism." No "job killing policies." No "assault on gun ownership." No "infringement of American freedoms." No "attack on marriage." No "refusal to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants." Doubtless, the Republican leadership recognized that they couldn't win on the basis of truthful arguments, and they couldn't produce any workable policy proposals to present as alternatives to the American people. So instead they resorted to the worst sort of demogoguery--imploring some Americans to hate and fear other Americans. It's a sad statement about the United States that the Republican strategy worked in so many places, including in Kansas.
Delaware is leading the country to the future.

libra101 7 years, 7 months ago

Using quotation marks to accurately you know, quote, someone is not unnecessary. No wonder the reading comprehension on the right is so lacking.

voevoda 7 years, 7 months ago

All the material in quotation marks was taken verbatim from campaign advertising directed against Democrats. It constitutes the proper use of quotation marks. Since you like browsing the internet, snap_pop_no_crackle, I'll let you find the citations.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

The American system only works if the citizens are responsible and have the quality of character and wisdom to vote for leaders with character.

Maybe our politicians need to get a word from Turner Gill at the start of each work week.

The media is dead set on dividing us into "Liberals" and "Conservatives" but I have always believed this to be basically a false view which is misleading.

How about learning how to manage your job by not spending and not cutting. How about learning to do with what you have. That is what most Americans do. What do you call this kind of person?

Certainly not a politician.

TrekkerKen 7 years, 7 months ago

voevoda: you are incorrect. Obama has run an agenda of takeover of our nation's health care. This law (Obama Care) is but the foundation for his real design - government run single payer system. We need real reform, not takeover and larger government; if you read the bill and see the amount of new departments it creates you will understand.

The "green initiative" is built on the foundation of farcical "global warming". All it will do is raise taxes on Americans and destroy our economy further than it already is, thanks to the Union bosses. Obama is failing to address Illegal Immigration and goes further to divide Americans by reaching out to Latinos and calling Republicans the ENEMY and Democrats the FRIENDS of Latinos. Funny thing is, I always read stuff by Latinos stating they too, are against Illegal Immigration. It's the far left, like Obama, who want us to all be citizens of a world without borders.

demogoguery - OH you mean like dear Obama does? Obama is the worst divider we have seen in a long time. He should represent all Americans, not the ones who are Democrats. "Trust me, you'll like this bill. I haven't read it but it's good for you."

We need to be Americans first and foremost (this goes for politicians especially). Then, and only then, will we be able to begin healing the great divide that tears at our nation.

cowboy 7 years, 7 months ago

I see no reason to work with the republicans at all with their new found control of the house. They have obstructed for the past two years and the morning after the election they vociferously defined their goals as simply to limit Obama to one term no matter what. This is just simply a poor loser mentality in practice. They lost the health care debate so they'll just try to undermine it with funding rejections. They have not proven to be responsible at all , witness the condition they handed the country over to Obama just two short years ago. Obama needs to grow a pair dictate the legislation he wants brought thru and veto the crap out of anything else. Compromise is a two way street and the republicans are just playing the dems to delay and water down any real progress that might be made. Logic , compromise , bi partisanship , I think not , kick their a$$ back to oblivion.

Mr_B9 7 years, 7 months ago

TrekkerKen (anonymous) hits the nail on the head. "We need to be Americans first and foremost (this goes for politicians especially). Then, and only then, will we be able to begin healing the great divide that tears at our nation." Good post TK.....

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