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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Is there a middle ground between the GOP and Obama?

The Democratic Party, after four years in the ascendancy, got handed one of its most severe electoral defeats since World War II.  When the new Congress convenes in January 2011 there will be more Republicans than at any other time since 1946.  It’s been compared to the 1994 Republican Revolution, but this “shellacking,” as the President called it, was more than just an electoral setback.  


Like it or not, it was a complete rejection of the President and his agenda.  The question now is: having been handed such a painful lesson from the American electorate, what is President Obama going to do?
So far, judging by his public appearances, the President, uncharacteristically, looks a little lost.  He says he wants to work with the Republicans, but beyond that, he doesn’t seem to have any specifics.  Will he mount a concerted stand in defense of his policies, the stimulus and healthcare, or is he willing to find some middle ground? Or, perhaps, does he want to stand pat on the core of his agenda and instead reach out to the Republicans on other issues, such as education, to see if there aren’t some issues they have in common?
He just won’t say.
As for the Republicans, their agenda isn’t that clear either. They have said they want to repeal the healthcare bill, or as they call it, Obamacare, and they want to trim the stimulus, but if they want to go searching for some middle ground on these topics, they haven’t said yet.   
The reality may be that there is no middle ground. Neither side, it can be argued, has anything to gain by searching for the middle. That’s because, rather than focusing on the business of the 112th Congress, with its new Republican majority in the House, both sides already have their eyes on 2012. In that election, and this is particularly true for the Republicans and their nominating process, there will be no points given for how much you were able to compromise with the other side.  
The Tea Party and the conservative wing of the Republican Party aren’t interested in compromises.  It’s all or nothing. The same can be said for the Democrats. Having gotten healthcare, most are not willing to bargain any of it away.
So, the next two years may be known for what the Congress didn’t do. Oh, there will be lots of activity. There will be all sorts of bills that come out of the House. Many will be dramatic, including repealing healthcare, major spending cuts, and even some hot button issues, such as defunding climate research.  
But with a Democratic Senate and the President with the power of the veto pen, it’s unlikely any of the new House’s major policy goals will make it into law. Each side, one chastened by the recent election, the other emboldened by it, are getting ready for the Presidential election. That, in their view, is when the real policy debate, the real decision over America’s future will be decided.  
However, while this intransigence may stoke the fires on both sides of the aisle, both parties need to remember that they weren’t elected to simply shout at each other. The government and the nation have real problems. And both sides, and Republicans in particular, need to remember the lessons of the last Republican Revolution.  
Stalemate, which 15 years ago led to a government shut down, as much as some in the Tea Party may delight at this prospect, doesn’t go over well with the American people. They aren’t happy with the President.  They sent that message loud and clear.  
But that didn’t include electing a government that is so divided it can’t do the basics of governing.  There will have to be some compromise and common ground.  
Like it or not, on issues like the deficit, the war, and the basics of developing a budget, the Congress and the President are going to have to work together. Just how that’s going to happen, who is going to extend the olive branch, and just how far each side is willing to go, is an open question.  
You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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