A Note to Republicans in Congress!

Portman and Ryan
Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Rob Portman

Do your Damned Job!

Of all the criticisms leveled at President Obama the one that strikes me as the silliest and most unfair is the complaint that the reason Republicans refuse to work with him on critical legislation is because he doesn’t hang out with them and court them as if he were wooing a teenage girl.

We are expected to believe that on issues as important as the impending budget “Sequester,” a fiscal time bomb that was never supposed to go off and if it does will be a devastating blow to the US economy that could throw us back into depression, the Republicans in Congress are refusing to act because the president hasen’t been swilling “keggers” with them.  It is hard to imagine a more patently ridiculous argument!

Aside from the fact that the President faces myriad issues daily that only he can deal with, and this consumes the lion’s share of his day, he is also a husband and father of two teenage daughters.  One would think that this would be applauded by Republicans; since they never tire of preaching the virtues of family life. The people who are upset that he is not a schmoozer appear to overlook the fact that he has a right to a private life, and that this is important to his personal well-being and state of mind.

Hence one need not languish in deep contemplation on this issue because it is prima facie absurd. The Republican Congress is presumably composed of mature, thoughtful adults, people who were elected by their constituents to conduct the business of the nation by passing legislation designed to solve the problems that constantly arise in the life of a great nation. While the drafters of the Constitution intended for it to be difficult to pass laws that will affect the course of the nation and the well-being of the citizenry, they certainly didn’t intend to make it impossible to govern.

There is a school of thought that believes the three fold division of power – with the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government checking and balancing each other – is a good idea in theory but contains the seeds for disaster.  There was always the possibility that it could result in gridlock that makes it impossible to govern; yet the fact that 200 years later we have emerged as the most powerful nation in the world provides impressive evidence that it was a good idea.

For most of our history this system has served the American people well.  It has achieved its main objectives admirably: preventing the rise of a tyrant and offering an alternative to armed insurrections in order to transfer power. After all, these were men who witnessed the tyrannies of the Old World and wanted to create a system that would prevent the rise of tyranny in the nation they were forming.

There is grand irony in all of this, because one could argue that the Founders’ fear of tyranny was fueled by hypocrisy in that they were enslaving Africans and dispossessing indigenous Americans of their lands by force of arms: there were no greater tyrannies anywhere in the world. It was a glaring contradiction that most of the Founding fathers chose not to deal with when they were drafting the Constitution –which is why the word slavery is never mentioned in this exalted document – but the great abolitionist and moral clarion Frederick Douglass never tired of pointing out.

And recent historical scholarship such as Dr. Gerald Horne’s book “Negro Comrades of the Crown, and Slave Nation, by the law professors Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen, convincingly argue that preserving African slavery, not the freedom of white colonists, was the motive force that propelled the war for independence against England and was a powerful influence in shaping the US Constitution.

Hence one could argue that the Founders fear of tyranny was magnified by their practices toward black people.  After all, preaching one thing and practicing another is at best base hypocrisy and Schizophrenia at worse.  All of these fears and contradictions no doubt played a role in shaping the Founders views about checks and balances on government actors and the power they wield.

It also explains why the military was placed under a civilian Commander-In-Chief, and why they included an impeachment process for Presidents or Federal Judges with lifelong appointments. This is also the reason why power is diffused into state and municipal governments, and the resulting ambiguity around exactly who has jurisdiction over what is the reason why we are still arguing about these questions over two centuries later.

When all things are considered, the Founders believed that all parties would act in the best interests of the nation.  Never in their wildest imagination did they dream that contending political parties would elevate the interests of their party over the vital interests of the nation, and that compromise, which is built into system they created, would be viewed as betrayal!

Obviously when this happens the system breaks down and becomes dysfunctional.   In the worst case scenario the country degenerated into civil war…and today the triumph of ideology over pragmatism among Republicans has turned the Grand Old Party into the “Grand Obstructionist Party” and it has crippled our government’s ability to govern.  Hence there are critical issues that cannot be addressed; the result of which is a continuous series of self-induced crises

If anybody thinks that the hard left is innocent of these vices: think again.  The far left is as irrational as the far right when it comes to the imperative of comprise as a vital part of the America political process.  Leftist ideologues have called the President as many nasty names as the so-called Tea Party Patriots – Check out  the essays compiled under “My Struggles on the Left” on this blog – and would be every bit as dangerous if they wielded the political power exercised by the right.

The result is an increasingly dysfunctional government unable to address the pressing problems facing our country; it is a situation that portends disaster!  That’s why the President is taking his case to the electorate in a series of public speeches designed to educate them on what is at stake in the looming sequester.  As I write he is holding a press conference with First Responders, the people we all depend upon when disaster strikes – whether man made or from natural causes i.e. Katrina, Sandy or the 9/11 terrorist attack by Islamic Jihadists.

The picture the President is painting of the consequences if the sequester goes into effect are dire and frightening.  And he is skillfully posing this scenario as the result of a choice by Republicans to inflict pain on the American people, and shoot craps with the fate of the nation, just to save the filthy rich a few dollars in taxes.

This is an especially odious choice since the rich wouldn’t even miss the money, but the fate of many Americans will become imperiled.  And by flashing the numbers of Americans who will lose their homes, jobs and other vital assets, along with those who will lose vital government assets, his message takes on great power.

Taking it to the Streets

barack-obama-2011-with first responders

The President with First Responders

And the President is scaring the hell out of Republicans, who fear that they will be blamed should the disastrous sequester actually kick in.  You can hear it in the mealy mouthed whining of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; he who pledged to throttle the Obama Presidency through non-cooperation, making the failure of the Obama presidency not the welfare of the nation the Republican goal.  And it is echoed in the increasing panic of John Boehner, “The Weeper of the House.”

What we have here is a deep ideological divide, contending and irreconcilable views of the role of government. And although some of these Republicans know this is self-destructive folly, the far right racist constituency they must appeal to in order to avoid having to face an opponent who is further to the right in the next primary election, will brook no compromise with the Democrats…especially this president: a bumptious, uppity nigger who thinks he’s smarter than everybody else

This problem runs so deep it’s in the DNA of the contemporary GOP, and it cannot be solved by the President having a few beers and shootin the shit with these guys! Not when it’s a political liability to even be seen with the President – it cost Charlie Crist his Job as Governor of Florida!  That’s why all of them snubbed the President’s invitation to come up and view the bio pic of Abraham Lincoln, the greatest President of in their Party’s history, along with less dramatic snubs.

Hence it is nauseating to hear pompous sophists and intellectual poseurs like Joe Scarborough – a failed politician who now pretends to the role of political wise guy – and his chattering cronies, promoting the bogus argument that the reason the Republicans refuse to participate in responsibly conducting the nation’s business is because Barack doesn’t hob nob with them after hours.  I would like them a simple solution that appears to have evaded the talking heads: JUST DO YOUR DAMNED JOB!!!


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 19, 2013

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