Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get me the votes!

I was interested to read the transcript of the president's interview with five progressive bloggers yesterday.  In dealing with the frustrations of supporters on the left (why couldn't you get a bigger stimulus or a better health care bill or repeal DADT, etc.), President Obama made the important point that I hadn't seen him express so simply before: "I'm president and not king."  Exactly.  People seem to forget that sometimes when they want to blame the president for not doing more to push their particular agenda.  (And even kings' powers have limits.)

When asked, for example, about the strategy for ending the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy, the president questioned whether the Log Cabin Republicans, who are devoting a lot of time and money to their legal challenge to the law, might be better off putting pressure on just a few Republican Senators whose votes are needed.
You’re financing a very successful, very effective legal strategy, and yet the only really thing you need to do is make sure that we get two to five Republican votes in the Senate.  And I said directly to the Log Cabin Republican who was here yesterday, I said, that can’t be that hard. GET ME THOSE VOTES.  Because what I do anticipate is that John McCain and maybe some others will filibuster this issue, and we’re going to have to have a cloture vote. If we can get through that cloture vote, this is done.  (emphasis added)
So what I would say to all who are frustrated with the pace of change is this: Ask not what more the president can do for you, ask what you can do to get the president a few more votes in the United States Senate.  He is begging for help.  And obviously, the difficulty of getting any kind of progressive legislation through Congress is only going to increase after the election, when the Democrats' majorities will almost certainly be reduced, if not evaporated entirely, and the Republicans are already talking about how they will refuse to compromise in the next session of Congress.  What that means is that Republican supporters will soon start feeling the frustration when they find that they cannot get their agenda through the Senate or signed by the president without compromise.  Politics is all about who has the votes.  That's it.  That's the whole ball game.  That's democracy in action.

(J. Paul Tapper photo)

(For more on why you should try to avoid using the word "compromise," go here.  People, especially congressmen, should also avoid saying that they will never compromise.  That will only make it harder for them when they finally do have to compromise.)

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