Saturday, February 16, 2013


The Hagel nomination fight stands as a good symbol for the position of the opposition party right now. The Republicans don't have the votes to prevent the nomination; they don't really have any coherent grounds for opposing the nomination; they don't have an alternative plan to suggest. All they have is the ability to delay the nomination for a couple of weeks by preventing a vote from taking place.

It seems that since the November election, when President Obama won a solid victory, and Democrats picked up seats in both the House and the Senate, everybody has learned to count. The Republicans can no longer make the argument that the majority doesn't support the president's policies. They realize they need to broaden their party's appeal. In the meantime, since they don't have the votes to advance their own agenda, all they can do is pout and delay.

Feeling confident after the November election, it's no wonder that all the Democrats want to talk about is allowing Congress to vote on their policies. Voting was a major theme of President Obama's State of the Union speech, from the emotional appeal of repeating the line about victims of gun violence deserving a vote on gun control legislation, to his reminder of the long lines many voters suffered in November when they tried to vote.

Put to an up or down vote, the Hagel nomination will pass. Immigration reform will pass. Some new gun control legislation will probably pass. A better deficit reduction plan than the looming sequester might even pass. And the Republican strategy of delay and obstruction might at some point have to give way to a better strategy of trying to cobble together some alternative policies that might have a chance of attracting the support of a majority. Because making fun of a 102 year old woman who had to wait in line for hours to cast her ballot is not a viable strategy.

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