Perhaps out of a forced sense of optimism, President Obama has predicted that if he wins re-election, Republicans in Congress will be more willing to work with him than they proved to be in his first term, when defeating him became their primary goal.
“What I’m offering the American people is a balanced approach that the majority agrees with, including a lot of Republicans. And for me to be able to say to the Republicans, the election is over; you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy — I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises, some of which I get criticized from the Democratic Party on, in order to make progress. But we’re going to need compromise on your side as well. And the days of viewing compromise as a dirty word need to be over because the American people are tired of it.
That’s, I think, a message that will resonate not with every Republican, but I think with a lot of fair-minded Republican legislators who probably feel somewhat discouraged about having served in one of the least productive Congresses in American history.”
Nancy Pelosi, who happens to have a ground-level view of the situation, disagrees, insisting that her Republican colleagues will be just as obstinate as ever.
“I see this president sit for hours being very respectable, but trying to find a path where there could be agreement when there is [none],” Pelosi said. “‘Never. Does never work for you?’ That’s really what they’re saying to the president.”
Conservative pundit Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in Bloomsberg, agrees with Pelosi:
“If the president believes anything like this would happen in his second term, he is kidding himself. If Obama wins re-election, the Republican Party will react by moving right, not left. It will become less likely to compromise with Obama, not more….
Republicans, especially at the grassroots level, would react to Obama’s re-election by assuming that Romney failed because he was too moderate. That’s a very widespread view among Republicans about why Senator John McCain lost in 2008. During the primaries, many of Romney’s opponents argued that he would lose because he would fail to energize conservatives. This interpretation of 2008 is probably wrong, and it will probably be the wrong explanation for a Romney defeat, if it happens. It will nonetheless be an appealing theory for conservatives.”
Pelosi and Ponnuru are probably correct. Absent a major and unexpected swing in voter sentiment, I’m doubtful that most Republicans will be any more willing to compromise and act reasonably than they have been for the past four years. A cult that defines itself by its own intransigence will not surrender that identity easily.
Sure, a few of their more responsible members — perhaps including House Speaker John Boehner and senators such as Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia — may be willing to cut a deal with the president on spending and revenue, but the success of the ongoing Great RINO Purge probably ensures that they will be too few in number and influence to make a difference.
In other words, this game of political chicken is likely to continue for as long as a largely apathetic and ill-informed American public is willing to tolerate it. I don’t see that changing soon.
– Jay Bookman