As I See it: Looking Forward in 2012

Happy New Year? We can hope so. 2011 was a rough year for America and Americans, as I noted here yesterday in our year-end edition of the Dirty Thirty. As a New York Times editorial said on the year’s last day, “After they took power in January, the hard-line Republicans who dominate the House reached for a radical overhaul of American government, hoping to unravel the social safety net, cut taxes further for the wealthy and strip away regulation of business.” It is true that the Democrats kept the Republicans from achieving most of their goals, but the damage cannot be minimized. Harry Truman’s 1948 “do-nothing Congress” had nothing on the 112th Congress.

As we move forward into 2012, we are, most of us, probably happy to see 2011 put behind us. We might also be far less optimistic about 2012 than we were 2011, which is a frightening thought. It is an election year and yes, Americans have a chance to free themselves from Tea Party tyranny and two years of near-stasis at the federal level. But we will also have had another year for Tea Party extremists to perpetuate that gridlock and to step-up attacks on our rights at the local, state, and federal level.

The Republican Party has rejected liberalism, the legitimacy of the Democratic Party, and in many cases, reality itself. It has demonstrated a willingness time and again to go against the expressed wishes of the American people (especially with regards to issues like Marriage Equality) and doubled down on its support for the 1% against the well-being of the 99%. It has demonstrated a Machiavellian support for the idea that the means justify the ends and that honorable, moral behavior is for suckers, even while hypocritically campaigning on morality platform. It has rejected science in favor of fantasy, not only with regard to the environment and global warming, but LGBT rights, the place of homosexuality within the natural order of things, and women’s reproductive rights.

We’re being told that only a government run along a strict moralistic, Bible-based set of laws is legitimate. As such, Obama and the Democrats are usurpers.

Obviously we need change, and more change than we’ve gotten in the past two years. To be fair to Obama, most of what he accomplished to put the breaks on insanity (and a drift toward theocracy) in government after Bush’s eight year reign of terror. The key going forward is how to affect that change. What can America do in the face of continued Republican control of the purse strings (the U.S. House of Representatives) and control of many state legislatures? For the time being, the President has it within his power to make some recess appointments (under Article II, Section 2, Clause 3). This clause states,

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

The intent, of course, was to prevent exactly what has happened over the past year: government paralysis. The previous Congress with a filibuster-proof majority confirmed 87 percent of Obama’s nominees. This Congress has confirmed only 16 percent.

Obama suggested that recess appointments were a possibility, and Richard Cordray is one of those who could benefit from the Senate recess. His appointment to the CFPB would do much to strike back at the GOP’s strategy of nullification.

A fly in the ointment is the Senate’s ability to not actually recess. As the Washington Times put it

By refusing to adjourn for the rest of the year, the House GOP, under a provision of the Constitution, would force the Democrat-controlled Senate to stay in session, too, thus denying President Obama the chance to make recess appointments and leaving the NLRB without a quorum to do business.

Republicans have admitted that the reason is to block recess appointments.  As Chad Pergram admitted on FOX News’ website yesterday,

This was an effort to block Mr. Obama from making any potential recess appointments. In fact, many Republican lawmakers who were drafted to preside over the House sessions that convened every few days sometimes touted the fact that they were doing so to prevent President Obama from making such appointments.

No bones about it then. But frustrating as this is after the summer’s scorched earth tactics, Democrats should remember that Harry Reid did the same thing to George W. Bush in his last two years in office.

Here’s the thing: the Washington Times points out that “Although recent custom has held that a recess must be longer than three days before the president may use his appointment powers, the Constitution is not explicit about the matter.” For example, Teddy Roosevelt got 160 appointments through in an instant between gavels back in 1903 and Obama could do the same. Harry Reid got away with the tactic because Bush did not challenge it, despite encouragement to do so. If Obama chooses not to go this route, he can, as an extreme remedy (I say extreme because no president has ever done it) under Article II of the Constitution, force Congress to adjourn.

So far in his presidency Obama has avoided controversy, and whenever possible, sought the path of conciliation and accommodation with his Republican opponents. He might see either of these two options as too extreme. Forcing Congress to adjourn would certainly intensify the conservative blogosphere’s cries that Obama is installing a dictatorship and might trigger a constitutional crisis.

But in a frustrating year of hard-ball, the hard-ball has been almost entirely from the GOP’s side. On the bright side, assuming it extends beyond talk, Obama did say last week that no option was off the table, and White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters that the administration is not “relinquishing any rights here.” The House GOPers are within the bounds of the Constitution refusing to adjourn but the president has Constitutional remedies available as well. If he will take them. That no president has ever invoked Article II’s forced adjournment does not mean Obama cannot or will not be the first.

Here is what Article II Section 3 (State of the Union, Convening Congress) has to say:

[The President] may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper…

Foreign affairs may have originally, given the 18th century’s lag in communications, been directed at foreign affairs, but that was not its only purpose. Clearly, the willy-nilly adjournment of Congress by the Executive is something to be avoided, but so is nullification. One is the remedy for the other. Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 69 that “the President can only adjourn the national Legislature in the single case of disagreement about the time of adjournment.”

And this happens to be the case we are now experiencing. By refusing to adjourn the Republicans themselves have given President Obama the opportunity to move forward. Naturally, the GOP presents the House’s strategy of nullification in quite different terms, Chad Pergram on the FOX News site saying that “the White House has made it clear that it intends to intensify its attacks on Republicans in Congress.” So of course, “bypassing the traditional confirmation process could be a way to easily ratchet up the tensions in the new year.”

This is the narrative Republicans want to present to America, but to be blunt, it’s ass-backwards.  Far too many Republicans have made clear since the 2010 midterms that their sole purpose was to obstruct the Obama administration and make him a one-term president. And it is the Republicans, not Obama, who have “bypassed” the “traditional confirmation process.” They have been clear in their goals and their verbiage and their actions match. Far from being a war on Republicans in  Congress, we have seen a two-year war on President Obama by Republicans in Congress. When Obama attacks those Republicans in Congress now he is only firing salvos in a war they started.

For the sake of the nation, we need this gridlock broken, and waiting until 2012 seems impossible. The question on many liberal minds as we begin the New Year is this: will the President have the audacity to act?

31 Replies to “As I See it: Looking Forward in 2012”

  1. I pray Obama has the audacity to act, to change the course of politics we saw in 2011…. we can not afford to do nothing until we kick out the bums of the GOP.

  2. I admit I have wondered what we would be looking forward to on the first morning of 2013: never business as usual. A hard struggle back, or the prospect of unmitigated horror? But this is the first morning of 2012, and there is still time to make a difference.

  3. I believe the President will hold off until the last moment and pull this off via a one-issue disagreement rule; he’s in diagnostic mode.

    He’s cautiously testing the water, tallying the polls, getting constitutional law lined up and, checking them temps on how badly citizens want gridlock to end…If it’s a thumbs up, he’ll do it and gain even more political popularity. All he needs is a majority that signals “do it”! It’s that simple.

    The GOP propaganda machine is going to howl if he does, plus, howl about his doing something else irrelevant that they don’t like (it’s whatever their Borg play book says they’re supposed to obstruct in January).

    It won’t really matter what the GOP says or does as they are so unpopular that another one of their crying “wolf” to their base isn’t really going to be heard over the applause that the President forced to do something to end gridlock. I mean, what other crazy can they pull out of their hat? They’ve done it all. Their Pavlovian “fear” bell is being ignored and they can’t win the next election…who cares what they think?

  4. I think its time we stopped worrying about what the right wing blogospere might say. They are certainly not worrying about anything themselves. Especially the 2012 elections

  5. Obama should use every means at his disposal to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, esp. any measure provided by that document so frequently invoked by the GOTP, the US Constitution. It would be an oh-so-sweet-irony to outwit the GOTP in this way.

    I hope that Obama will invoke Art. 2, Sec. 3, just to make the GOTP squirm. A GOTPer such as Gingrich wouldn’t hesitate, so why should Obama?

  6. We are already YEARS past the time for the Democratic establishment to stand up for itself and cease cowering from the relentless right wing spin machine. As you have implied, Shiva, they will never shut up, regardless of what President Obama or the progressive leadership does. We need our leaders to stand up to the media bullies and control the message in the same manner they do. Our talking heads can begin by using the phrase climate change instead of global warming. Every time a GOP media operative mentions lower taxes on the rich, our side must counter-attack by quoting the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans during The Eisenhower Administration, the same era to which the Republicans would supposedly wish to return!

  7. During the Eisenhower administration, the top brackets were taxed high, labor unions were strong, tariffs were in place, production was domestic, we were an exporting nation, and the average Northern blue-collar worker could, on his own salary, support a wife and two to four kids, own a house in town and maybe a vacation cottage, afford at least one car, and send the kids at least to state college without swearing anyone’s life away in student loans. Maybe his wife didn’t shop in Nieman-Marcus, but Marshall Field’s was at least occasionally on the itinerary, and certainly not second-hand stores. The Friedmanists couldn’t stand that, could they? Well, they’ve managed to ruin it all, but they’re not going to stop until little kids are working their way through elementary school mopping floors and scrubbing toilets. They won’t stop, that is, unless we stop them.

  8. Who, me, you asshole? You know neither my age, my physical description, my qualifications, nor my situation, but I assure you that (a) I am not collecting unemployment, and (b) you have said something profoundly cretinous…as usual.

  9. I think you might be referring to then Senator Obama’s voting “present”, not “absent” as you stated above. Do you have any idea how many times he voted present? It was 197 times. It may appear significant on the surface and for those who think they have come up with a legitimate complaint. However, the reality of the situation is that those 197 votes are a very small portion of President Obama’s votes as a Senator. In fact, they are only 3% of his total votes. You lose all credibility when you look at the situation as a whole.

  10. And you are most singularly dense. We are not kinder or gentler with the kind of cretins who can help being cretins. There are a lot of mechanics looking for jobs where I live. The community colleges are underfunded and have had to raise their tuition. Student money has dried up, and vo tech schools have been shut. This is all by design of the people whom (a) you support, or (b) are supporting you. I blame your kind, and I am not alone.

  11. Flak
    Was the Senate going around wearing “Where’s Sarah” badges? Oops my bad. Wrong person…heh!
    Audacity to tell to potential candidates to read from her failed book?
    flak we are on to your trollish tricks.

  12. Flak the troll, hey flak, how much does the RNC pay you to troll? Do you get time and a half for today? Or you prob get paid by the post, piece work is how the R’s like it.

  13. Actually lack is wrong. He forgets Obama wrote an immigration reform bill with mr wet flipping diapers McCain.

    I have seen enough of clack.

  14. Shiva, not “him” per se, but a troll is a troll and I do alot of whack a troll :)

  15. Philosophically, the GOP will always have the edge in hardball because conservatism is about might making right, while progressivism is about cooperation. That said, as Lakoff says, all politics is moral. The GOP has handed us a boatload of righteous indignation karma, and we need to work it like LBJ did. I think so many people are itching to see that.

  16. Nicely done, Hrafnkell. As always, in your strict fairness, you manage to point out just how extremist this Republican Party has become. Well done! Also, I see you’ve attracted a troll whose inability to reply outside of given talking points has relegated clack to the trash. Happy New Year!

  17. LOL good point. I guy was so filled with barking innuendo and falsehoods it was just hard to take the music

  18. Ahhhhhhhh…harmony has been restored. My Heathen zen is no longer under assault. Thank you, Shiva

  19. Thank you, Sarah. I do seem to attract people who refuse to address the issues at hand. It is a talent :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.