This is an era of diminished expectations and cynicism where Congressional approval rates have fallen under 10 percent, narrowly beating out the public’s surprising fondness for cockroaches and Genghis Khan. And no one expects grand bargains of any type to be negotiated that will put the country and its’ middle class back on the road to solvency. We must take solace where we can find it.
This was a week which commenced with a subdued inaugural vision of hope and change, shared by a battle-scarred and wary second-term President. Still, it can’t escape our collective liberal notice that by any standards this was also a very bad week for the Republican Party and its stubbornly quaint platform. If, as our very own Sarah Jones writes this week, “John Boehner Thinks Obama Wants to Shove the GOP to the ‘Dustbin of History’,” the Speaker of the House may thank his party mates for acting as the President’s accomplices.
Case in point: as NPR and other news outlets reported just a few days ago, Republicans were forced to blink during their latest turn at fiscal war games. In a report entitled House GOP Backs Off Debt Ceiling Demands, NPR host Scott Simon states “After insisting for weeks on a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that they would agree to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans dropped that demand, at least for the next three months.”
As we know now, the right did not surrender out of a genuine concern for the credibility and financial state of the nation. No, ultimately the party bowed because even their closest cohorts found the position untenable. When the Koch Brothers are unable to stand by their man Boehner (because at the end of the day, unmitigated, selfish, wealth creation is behind all their demands), even the stubbornest radical is forced to face the likelihood of defeat. Queue the retreat and inevitable patriotic messaging.
And that’s not all. Coming off an election cycle stunning in its attempted reversal of 50 years of social, economic and professional progress for women, the GOP proponents of “traditional family values” were handed an unexpected setback. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced plans this past Wednesday to open more than 230,000 front line combat positions in the U.S. Armed Forces to female soldiers. New York Times columnist Gail Collins reported that only recently, “[Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee] and her allies declared victory when they merely got language in the defense authorization bill requiring the Defense Department to study the question of women in combat.”
From a meandering study to a done deal in record time. How must it have hurt Fox News to have to run this headline: Leon Panetta Praised by Latinas After Combat Ban Lifted? Could it happen to a better party? A group that made a concerted effort to degrade Latin American immigrants and female reproductive rights in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election is now forced to watch idly as a second-term Obama receives the gratitude of a constituency comprised of both of the GOP’s most reviled elements..
Most of the nation appears to be following the lead of the POTUS. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back for embracing changes that probably should have been instituted long ago. Announce it and move on to putting out the next fire kindled in some fashion by Republican opposition. The clock is already ticking on the President’s remaining ability to foment the reversal of eight years of comprehensively schlocky, dangerous policy. But these small victories are a painful reminder of where we’ve been and how far the President’s leadership has taken us.
That deserves at least a moment of celebration.