Reaction to Obama’s Second Inauguration

Just a quick post on my thoughts on President Obama’s second inaugural address.

Like many liberals, I enjoyed the President’s speech a lot. I loved hearing Obama explicitly say he wants to take on climate change. I loved the explicit comment on LGBT couples and equal rights. I loved the focus on economic inequality and the need to promote free, fair markets.

President Obama is sworn in as President of the United States.

President Obama is sworn in as President of the United States.

In the end though, the speech did not say much new and it doesn’t change the congressional obstruction the President faces. Republicans aren’t going to agree to cap-and-trade because Obama mentioned climate change in his inaugural address (see his 2009 inaugural address). So, the only thing I’m left with in the end is that the speech doesn’t matter.

How many of the President’s speeches have truly mattered? The bully pulpit is a lot less powerful than people think, especially when you’re facing an opponent (the Tea Party) who won’t be swayed by changes in public opinion. The more Obama promotes ideas the Tea Party doesn’t agree with (even if the public supports those ideas), the more Tea Party Congressmen will attempt to block all legislation. The only thing that works against such an opponent is leverage, as seen in the final fiscal cliff deal and the House Republican’s new willingness to pass a three-month debt ceiling increase.

On the opposite side, liberals were certainly happy with the ideas and values the President outlined. Hearing those ideas in such an important, public address reignites hope they will become the major accomplishments of Obama’s second term. But the political realities are the same and no speech is going to change anything. If anything, it’s only going to anger Republicans more and increase their obstructionism. Thinking of this speech as a major turning point in Obama’s time in office or the moment where Republicans will finally come around to working with the President is naive. Obstructionism will reign once again. In just a few short months, Democrats and Republicans will be bickering over a new continuing resolution to fund the government and we will risk a government shutdown. That was true yesterday and it’s true today. It’s true tomorrow as well and no speech is going to change that. (Image via)



Most Hypocritical Column Ever?

Harvard economist and former economic adviser to Mitt Romney Greg Mankiw has a column up on the New York Times website that will run in tomorrow’s paper. In general, it’s a well-thought out piece that basically says we are eventually going to need to cut entitlement spending and raise taxes on everyone in order to pay down our deficit.

But the last line of the piece made my jaw drop, given that Mankiw was one of Romney’s top advisers:

But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Now Mankiw wants policies to be “constrained by the laws of arithmetic?” He just spent months promoting economic policies that were mathematically impossible! And now he’s imploring everyone else to follow the laws of arithmetic. I haven’t read anything this hypocritical in quite a while.

BTW, I know the Tax Policy Center took a lot of heat on the right for the assumptions it made in determining that Romney’s tax plan was impossible, even though most of those assumptions were incredibly favorable to Romney. However, Mankiw and the Romney campaign could easily have cleared up the controversy by outlining the specifics of the plan. They refused to do so. Thus, the blame still lies with Mankiw and the campaign.

Will the GOP let the Tea Party Break Away?

As promised, I stayed off WordPress and Twitter yesterday and enjoyed watching the election without frantically typing up blog posts. But, now that it’s been a bit, I’m back.

There are a huge number of story lines from yesterday’s results. One main one has been about the state of the Republican party. This has come up with a couple of my conservative friends. The party right now is a mix of center-right moderates and extreme Tea Party members. They are held together by a dislike for President Obama, but the ties are tenuous.

Now comes this from the Tea Party Patriots:

The Tea Party Patriots declared war on the Republican establishment after moderate establishment Republican Mitt Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama on Tuesday.Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, criticized the Republican Party for hand-picking a Beltway elite candidate who did not campaign forcefully on America’s founding principles and said the “presidential loss is unequivocally on them.”

“For those of us who believe that America, as founded, is the greatest country in the history of the world – a ‘Shining city upon a hill’ – we wanted someone who would fight for us,” Martin said. “We wanted a fighter like Ronald Reagan who boldly championed America’s founding principles, who inspired millions of independents and ‘Reagan Democrats’ to join us, and who fought his leftist opponents on the idea that America, as founded, was a ‘Shining city upon a hill.

Instead, Martin lamented, “what we got was a weak moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment wing of the Republican Party.”

Many of the commenters on the article want to form their own “Tea Party” or “Constitutional Party” to break off from the Republican establishment.

I’m wondering how Republican leaders will treat this. I hesitantly think they may jump for joy. Here’s a perfect way to move towards the center, to become more open to Hispanics and more liberal on social issues. The Tea Party is extreme on all those issues. Just by having them jump ship, the Republican party becomes a lot more appealing to minorities and women.

Of course, that leaves a hole in the GOP base. But if the Tea Party runs a candidate in the next election (or in a Senate race, House race, etc.), he won’t have a chance. The Tea Party does not have bipartisan support and America cannot sustain a third party.

In such a situation though, whoever the Republican candidate is will have a chance and the Tea Party members may switch their votes from their own guy to the Republican at the last second to prevent a Democrat victory. In addition, if the Republicans can pick up a decent percentage of minorities and women, the party won’t be as stuck to its base.

It’s certainly a risky strategy, but it’s also a great opportunity. In the end, Republicans may just say, “Bring on the war.”