The People’s President vs. Plutocrats’ Congress

I watched in dismay on Tuesday as the president (above) hung his head and told an ABC reporter, “Well, if you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home.”

President Obama had called a press conference to mark the first 100 days of his second term, and he was soon squirming under a volley of reporters’ barbs.  Among the most pointed was a suggestion by ABC’s Jonathan Karl that the president didn’t have enough “juice” to get his agenda passed.

Obviously, President Obama’s response was meant to be ironic. He indicated as much when he followed up by paraphrasing one of Mark Twin’s famous quips.“Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point,” he said.

But there’s a lot of truth in those rumors.

Barack Obama is the people’s president. Poll after poll shows he has the backing of a substantial majority of American voters. But this is not the people’s Congress.

This Congress is in the pockets of the plutocrats.

I must admit that I was naïve enough to be blindsided. I had hoped for better after Obama’s reelection. I had naturally expected the Republican members to do the bidding of their rich masters. But I had hoped the Democrats would have the interests of the country and the people at heart.

And no doubt, some Democrats do. But time after time, others betray the president, voting against key items in his agenda.

If this kind of thing happened in the UK, Canada or Jamaica, the government would fall and the prime minister would be obliged to call another election. But the American Constitution includes no such safeguard.  Rogue members of the House and Senate are free to vote against their party whenever some lobbyist comes along with enough cash – or other incentives – to buy their vote.

The Republicans got so fed up with this kind of disloyalty that they closed ranks. Now, Republican members of Congress must toe the party line or face a primary challenge.

With that kind of discipline comes power – the power to stop President Obama in his tracks. The power to siphon more and more of the country’s wealth to the privileged few. The power to bring the American government to a halt and the economy to its knees.

Democrats have shown none of this resolve. Democratic senators even torpedoed attempts to end the filibuster rule that ensures no law can be passed without at least 60 votes in its favor. With the Republican senators committed to obstructionism and the kind of Democratic senators the president must depend on, that’s never going to happen.

Even when the president threatens to veto legislation, he is ignored by members of his own party.

As Karl  pointed out, 92 Democrats joined the Republicans to pass a cybersecurity bill in the House despite President Obama’s veto threat. Democratic senators also sabotaged gun control, even after the bill was watered down to placate them and their campaign contributors.

With this kind of lackluster support from his party, Obama can only complain to the public, hoping we will shame our political representatives into some semblance of decency.

So I find it cruel and unfair when a usually supportive columnist like Maureen Dowd turns on him, accusing him of lacking the leadership his job demands. In her New York Times column today, Ms. Dowd declared:

The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.       

He still thinks he’ll do his thing from the balcony and everyone else will follow along below. That’s not how it works. 

Obviously, she doesn’t get the picture.  The Republicans have only one goal: to prevent the president from achieving anything.  They don’t care what harm they do to their country in pursuing this goal. And if that wasn’t daunting enough,  disloyal Democrats are stabbing him in the back.

Yet Ms. Dowd thinks President Obama could solve this sorry mess by having that drink with Mitch McConnell he joked about at the White House Correspondents dinner.


I had thought better of Ms. Dowd.

Click here for Maureen Dowd’s column.