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The Republican Move To The Right

by August 27, 2012 blog

The Obama Presidency has been a very interesting and dramatic time. During the 2008 elections, the economy went through its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Arab Spring has erupted across the Middle East, as the populace has gone to the streets to assert its rights against various oppressive governments in the region. Iran continues to cause trouble as it tries to develope the capacity to create nuclear power. In our own country the major political development has been the rise of the Tea Party and the shift in the Republican Party towards the extreme Right. During these past few years, many Progressives have been disappointed at Obama’s attempts at trying to reach a middle ground with Republicans as he tried to pass major legislation on health care, climate change, financial regulations, immigration reform, and economic relief for average Americans going through home foreclosures and unemployment. I have to admit to being disappointed at times too with Obama, though I can’t blame him for trying to reach out to Republicans. It’s tough for me to really judge Obama’s Presidency just because the Republicans in Congress during the past 4 years have been so obstinately opposed to almost every Obama initiative. This has been the result of the efforts by conservatives to marginalize or kick out the moderates in the Republican Party, and the loss of influence of moderate Republicans in the GOP has been bad for both the Republican Party and the political discourse in our country.

During the past 4 years, President Obama has tried various things to try to reach common ground with the Republicans to get bipartisan legislation. In the early part of the health care reform debate, Obama and his officials gave a lot of leeway to Senator Chuck Grassley and the Republicans in the Gang of Six Senators in the Senate Finance Committee to try to come up with a bipartisan health care reform bill. The attempts of bipartisanship on health care reform collapsed when Tea Party activists made a lot of noise during town hall meetings, which scared Senator Grassley away from making any deals with the Democrats.

President Obama had hoped that Senator Dick Durbin would succeed in his decade long effort to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act, which would’ve given legal status to those who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, have been here for five years, have no criminal record, graduated from high school or gained an equivalency degree and who joined the military or attend college. Sadly, the bill was voted down 55 to 41 in December 2010, falling shy of the 60 votes required to limit debate and move forward, essentially killing the legislation for the 2010 congressional session. Almost all of the Republican Senators voted against the bill, including some Republicans who had supported the Dream Act in previous years (like Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley). Fifty Democrats voted for the Dream Act, along with independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, and Republicans Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowski and Bob Bennett.

The administration had hoped that the alliance of Senators Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry would in 2009 produce a compromise climate bill that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman plan has initially included a cap-and-trade plan for emissions allowances, protections for U.S. businesses from unfair competition, protections for consumers and businesses from energy price increases and calls for emissions reductions “in the range of 17 percent below 2005 emission levels” by 2020, the level that President Barack Obama proposed in international climate negotiations in Copenhagen. The partnership fell apart without any action on climate change legislation.

In 2011, Obama entered into tense negotiations with House Speak John Boehner on a compromise deal to reduce the national debt. They initially had a deal, until Boehner faced a revolt from conservative Republican representatives.