Barack Obama's State of the Union
offered a tempered vision for temperamental times. But a more important division was on display in Congress.
While lawmakers and commentators made a big deal out of “date night”
and bipartisan seating, there was clear division in the room – and not just between Democrats and Republicans.
Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann anointed herself spokeswoman of the Tea Party and offered her own rebuttal
separate and apart from the party-designated spokesman, Paul Ryan.
While the new House Budget Committee Chairman scaled back his own rhetoric about rearranging Social Security and Medicare
, he called for deep but unspecified cuts to a budget that has been swollen in large measure because of GOP decisions during the years they controlled the Congress and White House.
That tame rhetoric was obviously not good enough for Bachmann, the self-anointed leader of the Tea Party Express, who spent six minutes in trying to pin all the ills on Obama.
It worked in 2010, but it may not work again. Particularly as the split between the hard tight and the harder right plays out.
You don't have to look very far to see what happens when parties can't agree amongst themselves. For all that Obama accomplished in his first two years -- historic health care legislation and a small start to reining in the excesses of Wall Street -- the divide among Democrats who felt he went too far or not far enough eventually blew up efforts to solidify and extend those gains.
Politics trumped policy, as it always does in a media-fueled society where cable television gins up controversy 24-7-365.
Republicans clearly face those same fissures, but with an added problem -- Americans are all for cutting spending -- when it's someone else's ox being gored
. And the depth of the cuts being proposed by Republicans -- along with the sacred cows being spared -- means eventually everyone's ox is in jeopardy.
The reality of having to do something other than saying no -- and offering cheap symbols like health care "repeal" -- is eventually going to hit home.
Liberals and progressives may sneer at Obama "moving to the center," despite the historic changes he brought about. But that center is where most Americans are and it's closer to the left than the right edge from which Republicans are operating.
It's a reasonable bet Americans will reject the hard right Republican proposals once they realize what it will mean to them. Of course, that's as long as liberals and progressives don't get caught up in their own partisan squabbles.
Ryan can't soft pedal his Social Security and Medicare ideas forever. And liberals and progressives should make sure Americans know that's what Republican health care reform and spending cuts are all about.
Labels: Barack Obama, Congress, conservatives, liberals, State of the Union, Tea Party