Brace Yourself for Two Years of Gridlock – at Best

The next two years are likely to produce nothing of value for Americans. And not much American help for the rest of the world.

You can bet President Obama will get the blame. But there’s not much he can do about it. The tax compromise before Congress is the last bipartisan deal he’s likely to work out. The new Republican majority is not going to cooperate with the president and his Democratic allies on anything substantive.

An analysis by author Alan Abramowitz, published in Salon today, shows how ideologically divided the new Congress will be. Here’s an excerpt:

The 112th House is likely to be a good deal more conservative than the Newt Gingrich-led House of 1995-97. In the Gingrich House, moderate Republicans actually outnumbered very conservative Republicans by a wide margin. In the 112th House, however, very conservative Republicans will greatly outnumber moderate Republicans. Whereas moderate Republicans held the balance of power in the Gingrich House, they will have almost no influence in the 112th House. As a result, pressure on the House leadership to pursue a hard-line conservative agenda is likely to be much stronger in the new House than it was in the Gingrich House and opportunities to reach bipartisan agreements with the president are likely to be much more limited if not nonexistent.

The most likely result will be two years of continuous confrontations in almost every major policy area between President Obama and a Senate in which the balance of power is still held by moderate Democrats as well as a House dominated by conservative Republicans to a greater extent than at any time in the past 60 years.

The likely consequences of this kind of Congress are frightening. The worst-case scenario includes an economic relapse that would leave more millions in poverty, possibly as bad as the Dirty Thirties.  There might be spreading violence at home and abroad, as domestic protests turn ugly, the Afghan adventure spreads deeper into Pakistan and Yemen,  and new wars break out with Iran and North Korea – or places we haven’t even heard of yet.

The best-case scenario is a numbing stalemate, with the American economy floundering along, high unemployment and increased hostility toward minorities (not just ethnic minorities but lesbians and gays). Meanwhile, military involvement abroad continues to devour American resources and take American – and foreign – lives.

There might be something to hope for if American voters finally discern the roots of their distress and boot out the unenlightened and heartless politicians responsible for the nation’s decline. But, so far, the voters have swallowed Republican propaganda hook, line and sinker, and might do it again in 2012.

If they do, they will have only themselves to blame for the even greater calamities that would be sure to follow.