No middle ground found

Americans Elect and Unity 08 are history, No Labels an irrelevant joke. Despite repeated efforts by Beltway hacks to appeal to a mythical and nonexistent bipartisan “middle,” it’s clear there is zero appetite for such constructs from the American public. 

For better or worse, two parties dominate the American political system, and they disagree — often vehemently — on solutions to our nation’s problems. Heck, they can’t even agree on what the problems are! For example, Republicans don’t care about our nation’s increasing income disparity or the lack of access by millions to quality healthcare, yet fixate intently on objectively nonexistent voter fraud. 

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How do you find “bipartisanship” when two party’s worldviews are so dramatically distinct? 

Yet for three years, President Obama and his administration bought the fiction that Americans wanted politicians who would “work with the other side.” America gave the president and his party massive victories in 2006 and 2008 — a mandate by any definition — and delivered a wholesale rejection of Republican governance. 

And what did Obama and the Democrats then do after taking office? Literally spent years begging Republicans to join them in passing bits of a reform agenda, from healthcare to economic stimulus to cap-and-trade. Sensing obvious weakness, Republicans struck a posture of overt defiance and outright hostility. 

So Obama adopted Republican ideas: non-stimulative tax breaks in the stimulus package, the individual healthcare mandate and market-based cap-and-trade. Since they were Republican ideas, they weren’t the best ideas, but Obama thought naively that “reaching out” and “working together” and “being bipartisan” meant adopting the enemy’s toolbox. Yet the instant Obama touched one of their ideas, it became toxic. The individual mandate might have been hatched by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first adopted by a Republican governor named Mitt Romney, but the second Obama proposed it, conservatives decided it was worse than Hitler while the Heritage Foundation furiously scrubbed the whole plan off its website. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans wielded the filibuster in record numbers. In the 70 years from World War I — when the filibuster rule was first implemented — to the end of the Reagan administration, there were a total of 385 cloture motions in the Senate. But in the five and a half years since Republicans lost Senate control in 2006, there have been over 360.

As of two weeks ago, 83 cloture motions had been filed in the 112th Congress — the third highest of all time — and it was only early May. And the first and second highest? Why, the 110th and 111th Congresses, of course — the two immediately following the GOP’s loss of the chamber!

So what did Republicans earn for their record-breaking obstructionism? A massive victory in the 2010 elections. 

So it’s not surprising that last week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 56 percent of Americans preferred a president who “stands for convictions,” while just 38 percent preferred one who “seeks common ground.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell lamented that the results were “disappointing, to say the least … for those of us that like to see things get done.”

Yet neither Mitchell nor the rest of the Beltway media did anything to hold Republicans accountable for their record obstructionism, nor lauded Obama for adopting Republican ideas. And engaged voters certainly have no interest in seeing their politicians surrender to the opposition. 

That message has long been unambiguous, and Republicans never doubted it. It has just taken Democrats a little longer to figure it out.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).