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After the White House Tax Cut Summit: Partisanship Lives On

3 years ago
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Nothing is as cloying as political Washington on its best behavior. The mood was marzipan after Tuesday's bridge-over-troubled-tax-cuts White House smile-button summit with the congressional leadership of both parties. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reflected the new accentuate-the-positive spirit when he said, "I think we all agree there's no particular reason why we can't find areas of agreement and do some important things for the American people over the next two years."
Gone was the rancor of the recent election during which Barack Obama talked about how the GOP had driven the car of state into a ditch and the Republicans hinted that the president's patron saint was Karl Marx. In its place was the rhetoric of togetherness. "The American people did not vote for gridlock," Obama said after the White House social. "They didn't vote for unyielding partisanship. They're demanding cooperation and they're demanding progress." A tad more smugly (and who could blame him?) incoming House Speaker John Boehner said, "It was interesting that both Democrats and Republicans understood what the American people had to say on Election Day."
Of course, it was all for show in a political pantomime that fooled only those already credulous enough to believe in Taliban imposters. By Thursday, at the latest, Washington will be back to its old ways by treating the lame-duck session of Congress as a blood sport. Republicans will snarl about the Democrats' support for job-killing tax increases while Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will fulminate about the GOP's preference for millionaires over hard-working American families. Congressional leaders in both parties will dispense with Standard English and lapse back into a language of epithets known as Partisan Speak.
The truth is that both parties have misread the lessons of Campaign 2010. This was the wave election that demonstrated that congressional races now and forever have been nationalized. No longer will incumbents be excoriated in 30-second spots for voting the wrong way on minor pieces of local-interest legislation like, say, the Kumquat Reform Act.
Two of the architects of the 63-seat Republican House landslide -- Brad Todd and Mike Shields -- underscored in a revealing how-we-won article in Politico that congressional campaigns are no longer individual contests: "Democrats wanted an unconnected series of local elections...But we wanted every race to be a choice about the national agenda...It just took less money to make the case that Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) had voted with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- a subject already on voter's minds -- than to litigate local issues."
What this means is that congressional campaigns of the future will revolve around Big Things -- broad national themes -- not obscure House votes yanked out of context by day-of-doom narrators in 30-second attack ads. Television commercials that are out of step with the national mood no longer work -- as the Republicans discovered in trying to localize the 2006 elections (it didn't work; Pelosi became speaker) and the Democrats learned to their dismay this year.
Somehow this obvious message has been lost on the congressional leadership of both parties. They remain obsessed with short-term tactics and purportedly clever gimmicks designed to dominate the cable TV news cycle for as long as three hours. Does anyone believe that the Democrats will win a single vote anywhere by endlessly talking about "hard-working American families" as Obama did Tuesday? (Doesn't the president understand that members of lazy American families also vote?).
Even worse is the Republican obsession with dropping the last two letters in Democratic Party. Lamar Alexander, the Senate Republican whip, offered Tuesday a classic example of political attack language that sounds peculiarly detached from ordinary American life when he snapped, "In bringing up so many different issues in this lame-duck session, the Democrat leadership of the Senate is insisting on an encore for a concert that drew a lot of boos."
It is all so parochial. Voters could grow angry over what is passed in the lame-duck session, but few will flock to the barricades waving banners that read, "TOO MANY ISSUES." Also, every time a prominent Republican painfully says "Democrat Party," it suggests that he learned English as a second language.
House Democrats this week are plotting ways to force a vote on legislation only extending the Bush tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000. This was the White House position as well until Team Obama went into a fetal crouch after the election. Nancy Pelosi and Company know this version of the tax bill will not pass, but they fantasize about embarrassing the Republicans with a roll call that puts them squarely on the side of the wealthy. The problem with this short-term gambit is that no one is apt to remember this particular tax-cut vote by the 2012 elections. The GOP may indeed be tarred as the party of millionaires, but it will take far more than a few stray votes during the lame-duck session to do it.
This kind of politically motivated gimmickry is what voters hate about Washington and Congress. They accept ideological differences on questions of principle, but they recoil at locker-room, towel-snapping over partisan trivia. Cynical over being suckered, most voters accept that bipartisanship is beguiling myth rather than a realistic expectation. But what they do not understand is the unending rancor and vitriol that defines Washington except at that those rare Pollyannaish moments when the bipartisan congressional leadership makes a pilgrimage to the White House.

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21 Comments

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AL

Nancy Pelosi accusing republicans of the party of the rich should seriously examine some of her own party members that serve in the senate and congress. Her words suggest that she among others should apologize for being rich. Some who were poor before being elected to congress. Both parties seem to do rather well spending other peoples money.

December 02 2010 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rodrockler

Does this surprise anyone? Really? They talk about turning over a new leaf but they don't let the voters know that the same shenanigans are on the other side as well. Obstructionists as they are, we shall not see anything good come from their new majority but more disappointment for the middle class and the rich will just get richer. Nothing has or ever will trickle down from the rich as that is not in their mantra. Greed does not let go what it covets so highly. It has come to the point that they believe it should only be obtained by those of stature and blood-lines and the have-not's should acquiesce to being happy with their imposed poverty and scramble for the crumbs the rich do decide part with just for the mere pleasure of having the artificial 'power' to do so.

December 01 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rodrockler's comment
AL

Did you ever get a job from a welfare recipient or a poor person? If a rich person hires you and pays you money that would seem to me to be trickle down riches. But on the other hand if you had to give up half your pay to government who handed it to the downtrodden to buy votes, I would call that trickle up poverty, and enslavement.

December 02 2010 at 3:43 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
exnyorker

Most Americans are in favor of tax cuts for the middle class, for families with income up to $250,000. That will benefit most of the nation, especially those individuals, families and small businesses that would circulate the money through OUR economy. Many wealthy individuals, especially the wealthiest admit they are willing to forego the tax cuts in favor of the middle class and to not add to the Federal deficit. After all, the rich are spending it on European vacations, foreign luxury automobiles and fancy imported apparel...... let's do the sensible thing for the overwhelming majority of hardworking Americans.

December 01 2010 at 5:55 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

At this very moment, the President is speaking about the Arms Treaty. WHY? Everyone knows this in not a crisis. The expiring tax cuts and the expiring unemployment benefits are a crisis. Cutting spending by the Fed, and where to cut, that is a crisis. Presenting a budget that can be approved and keep gov't running, that is a crisis. We do not want to hear anything more about Dream Act, DADT, or Arms Treaties, until the real issues are settled.

December 01 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
Ray Scarth

Welcome to the "New World Order". Our election system was sold by our Supreme Courts to the highest corporate bidder, be it foreign or National. The good old boys of the Bohemian Grove club have always Known what is best for our country( and their pocketbooks). Why would they steer us wrong now? Why, because it is no longer the USA against foreign interests, it is a global economy. Heck you can buy your own island(Caymans anyone?) and declare yourself tax free, sit back and play the pawns on the table like a shell game. Why do you think all these Cabals are trying to hunt down the lone voice in the wilderness, Wikileaks. The puppet Masters do not like when you tug on their strings!

December 01 2010 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
djh6721

This is a joke. The Republicans would let the entire country sink into the sea before they will compromise. 90 percent of everything that was proposed during the last 2 years was at one time or another introduced by Republicans and becuase Obama is in office it all of a sudden is a bad idea. If Obama claimed that oxygen was a good thing for Americans the Republicans would say it isn't, Fox news would spin it into a socialist plot, half of American would hold their breath and die. That's America 2010.

December 01 2010 at 11:35 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to djh6721's comment
AL

Thank goodness for the "party of NO" otherwise we would be declaring that oxygen is a pollutant just like the lefties on the court declared CO2 as a pollutant. Lets see you live with out Co2. What would you eat, dirt?

December 02 2010 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
miselaineyus

Believe nothing coming out of this meeting! Obama is as trust worthy as a snake! Republicans can turn and pounce at a given moment. Until the fat lady sings, it ain't over!

December 01 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

Over 700 seats in the last election, local, state and federal changed hands. The American people have spoken. They don't want partisanship. They want the debt cleaned up. They want someone to hide the checkbook. They want a fair playing field, raised tariffs to offset the dumping of foreign goods that took our jobs. We know the problem, just fix it. They knew that the tax cuts would end this year, they've known for the last ten and they had plenty of time to work on it. This has been the first year since the early 70s's that we haven't had a budget and here they talk about food or the Dream Act. It seems in 2012 we will have to get rid of some more of the deadheads.

December 01 2010 at 11:00 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
crimson00king

The GOP is using extortion to get tax breaks for the rich what a sorry lot they are. Americans of either party must agree the rich don't need tax breaks and they have had them for ten years and have not created jobs like they said they would. Are we fools contact your congressmen Senators and the White House and tell them NO TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH.

December 01 2010 at 10:49 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crimson00king's comment
John Villanueva

By extortion do you mean like the way the health care bill was passed? Did you have a problem with that as well? Just saying. BTW, get ready for your paychecks to get smaller in a few weeks because this congress (led by Harry Ried and Nancy Pelosi)hasn't done anything about the tax breaks expiring this year. The withholding tax tables for 2011 have to be distributed to all employers in the next week and it will have to assume that the tax rates are going back to the year 2000 levels meaning more will have to be withheld from most peoples paychecks in the form of federal withholding. That is unless you don't have a job or rely on the government for subsidies.

December 01 2010 at 12:52 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
truthforfreedom

I don't agree with Mr. Shapiro on this one. The Republicans have learned their lessons. Until January, you're not going to see anything monumentous. The economic problems facing this country is paramount and must be brought to bay. Some people are going to rant on and on about what needs to be done, but too bad. Articles like this is so biased, I'm not surprised. The last 4 years democrats have whined, moaned and excluded Republicans, now all of a sudden it's both parties. What a laugh. I will back and agree with Republicans any time over the mess the democrats have created. Which by the way will take years to fix. Our economy is sick and must be fixed and some people who wholly rely on government handouts must be prepared for some discomfort. Tough work ahead.

December 01 2010 at 10:02 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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