Monday, November 02, 2015

Victorious Ending to Obama Domestic Inning

Ever since Democrats lost majorities in Congress two years in Obama's first term (2010 mid-term elections); President Obama has been engaged in a kind of trench warfare with Republicans in Congress as a response to Tea Party militancy. Annual show downs about increasing debt ceiling and threats of federal government shutdowns became the norm. Militancy of Tea Party brought President Obama to his weakest point in 2011 when he stretched his Democratic caucus to accommodate draconian adjustments to entitlement programs; but still John Boehner could not bring his raucous majority to accept the deal. Subsequently President Obama accepted the second best choice of sequestered budget deal and changed his tact in dealing with Congress.

The scale of 2012 victory and jaw dropping loss of Romeny from Republican perspective, brought President Obama his important domestic policy victory - roll back of highly regressive Bush Tax Cuts for rich and shoring up of the revenue for Federal Government. By then President Obama had yielded to the reality of recalcitrant Republican majorities in Congress and had decided to govern through executive actions. 

President Obama failed in corralling Democratic voter base of young, poor and black in 2014 Mid-Term elections and paid the price of losing Senate for Democrats. But what he proved by now is - so long as President's party has veto proof strength in Congress, Republican majority in Congress cannot impose the will on White House. This reality proved to be too hard for Tea Party base to accept. Resulting four plus years of Tea Party frustration claimed it's political sacrificial lamb in John Boehner's resignation. For Boehner to leave Congress without cleaning the barn would have simply meant to setup Paul Ryan for a guaranteed failure. No Republican Speaker, including Paul Ryan, would have been able to stick to Hastert Rule and get Debt Ceiling Increase passed through the current Republican Majority. Even Paul Ryan would not have been able to get any relaxation from brutal sequestering deal. Naturally, till end quintessentially the party man John Boehner, traded his position for these two deals; Democrats ensured they got something substantive in the process and that is how Obama White House scored a hit to liberate remaining Obama Term free of budget and debt shenanigans of Tea Party. People made fun of President Obama for ones and twos strategy, but he had grasped by now that he was going to prevail politically only by grinding without home runs but by keeping the scoreboard constantly moving with an incessant political fight.

So long as White House is occupied by a Democrat, state level Republicans would be always able to rally against White House; drowning out all the gerrymandering which keeps sustaining their Republican Majorities in Congress. Not that Red State folks do not see subversion of democracy in gerrymandered districts by Republicans at State level; it is just that when you have the pinata of Obama in White House; the whole fun of rallying against a Democrat is too much for Americans not to get carried away by that. Until that keeps  happening, quite possibly American Politics at Federal level is condemned to a divided government only; each party carrying its natural advantages in respective power centers - Republicans in chambers of Congress while Democrats in White House.

President Obama seems to have internalized this thinking to thread the needle here and score an emphatic victory in possibly last of his domestic policy political fight. For Paul Ryan to proclaim he will not cooperate with Obama for Immigration (in any case that is his down payment extracted by Tea Party members to accept him as the speaker) or for Media to speculate about similarities between Ryan and Obama approach to policy; that is all redundant. For all practical purposes, neither President Obama is likely to pursue any grand bipartisan deal in remainder of his term; nor Speaker Ryan is going to waste any of his political capital in working with President Obama. Immigration as an issue has safely been put on ballots of 2016 by Donald Trump. Meanwhile speaker Ryan has a task cut out in front of him for the remainder of 114th Congress - keep taking symbolic votes to shore his credentials with Tea Party, create less mess on Republican side as a background for November 2016 election (which John Boehner took care off in cleaning the barn reasonably) and wait for chips to fall in 2016 elections. While Paul Ryan keeps himself busy, President Obama can essentially wrap his term as far as domestic policy goes to fully concentrate on Foreign Policy problems - read Syria - in remaining 14 months.

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