Dinner Before Return Journey?
Most of us have been in a situation where you thought you knew how things might turn out when you decided a course of action. When things did turn out the way you had guessed, you felt pretty good. On the other hand, when things turned out really bad, it was damn difficult to save face and still change the course you were on. Are we seeing this play out in Washington?
The strategic decision Republicans made upon President Obama’s election, that is just to say “no”, was that type of choice. Their reasoning seems clear. The economy was in the process of tanking, all sorts of demographic projections predicted an exploding deficit, and if Republicans cooperated with Democrats, the public was not likely to give them as much credit and believe that President Obama was delivering. So why do anything to make the President or Democrats look good?
In 2010, it looked like the GOP had called it correctly. Republicans were swept into office. If two years of “no” had been this good, then two more years would be even better, it appears they reasoned.
Mitt Romney’s defeat and even more importantly, the demographics behind his loss have painted quite a different picture. The GOP is waking up to the reality that their very conservative factions, the ones who adored Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich do not represent the views of a growing majority of voters. If this continues to be the direction Republicans turn, their future is not very bright.
Last evening, either by chance or brilliant tactics, President Obama offered a group of Republican Congressmen, a way to lead the rest out of the dead end canyon they are currently in. The occasion was a private dinner.
Everyone knows that one good meal does not normally change much. And this dinner may not too. What is different, however, is the rhetoric of the Republican invitees after the dinner.
“The President should have done this long ago”, a favorite line. “We had cordial, frank, and open discussion”, was another. Some even ventured to say, “ a comprehensive plan that deals with Medicare for the long term is a plan I would look at” when asked whether he would agree to tax increases as part of any plan.
The dinner is symbolic. It allows some GOP members to step up onto a higher plain and avoid simply repeating old rhetoric or just saying “no”. This is only a first step but an important one.
Democrats might be tempted to dilute their willingness to make changes to Medicare or they may up the ante on tax reform. The Democrats must accept that by letting the GOP out of the hole that they got themselves into, they are allowing the possibility of the GOP retaking the White House.
On the bright side, getting beyond the current deficit/debt deadlock would enable Congress to do other pressing matters. It would most likely also stimulate the economy. As bad and ineffective as Congress has been, in comparison to other world economies, the US is still sitting pretty. With a more fiscally sound budget, it should not be surprising if US businesses begin investing and employing more people.
All this with one dinner? Maybe, we’ll see.