CNN poll taken during the just-concluded lame duck session of Congress, finds that 59% of respondents think President Obama is doing enough to cooperate with Republicans. At the same time, a whopping 68% think that Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to cooperate with the President. I'm sure some of my friends on the left who believe that the Obama administration has sold out to the right could find some vindication in these results. I would read them in a somewhat different way. I think people actually like to see cooperation and bi-partisanship. People were angry at Congress, and mainly took out their anger on House Democrats in the last election, because it has seemed so partisan. By contrast, the public overwhelmingly supported the bi-partisan tax compromise, in which both sides sold out their principles to the other side. And people seem impressed at what else was accomplished during the lame duck session, with some Republican support.
All that spells bad news for GOP strategists who think that the way forward in the next Congress is to become even more obstructionist. There is talk on the Republican side of taking funding away from health care reform, of undoing other regulations passed in this Congress, of a government shutdown if the opposition does not get its way on other potential spending cuts. Cooler heads should try to prevail on the newly-elected Congressional Republicans to tone down these demands. Newt Gingrich should be able to remind Congressional Republicans that a similar strategy did not pay off very well for them in the 1990's. And the polls suggest that unless the Republicans display the kind of bi-partisan cooperation that they started to display in the lame duck session, the public is not going to be very happy with their attitude.
Democrats got major parts of their agenda passed in the last Congress. They can afford to take a breather, and concentrate on preserving and consolidating their gains. Republicans might have some success in chipping away at them. But their overriding goal should be to at least create the appearance that government is working for the people. Otherwise the people will understand who is causing the problems in Washington, and who is part of the solution.