By Andy Schmookler
This week I got a mailing from the National Review, a conservative magazine. Printed on the envelope was "RESIST! He may have won the election. But he hasn't won the fight."
The "he," of course, is President Obama, whose picture was also visible on the outside of the mailing.
So what fight is the National Review calling its readers to join?
It can't be the fight to reduce the deficit. The deficit has been falling for several years, at the fastest rate in history.
It can't be the fight to boost our tepid economic recovery and get more Americans back to work. The Republicans did everything they could to block the initial Obama stimulus in 2009, even though they supported President Bush's tax-rebate stimulus just the year before. Since then they've succeeded in imposing cuts that put additional hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.
It can't be the fight to improve our health care system, which costs us twice as much as any other nation's while delivering a level of health care to the American people that doesn't rank in the Top 25. The Republicans did everything they could to prevent health care reform from being passed, even though Obamacare is based largely on Republican ideas. House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times, but have never made serious proposals of their own to address this most serious national problem.
It can't be the fight to make sure that the kind of financial crisis that collapsed our economy five years ago doesn't happen again. The Republicans did everything they could to prevent a restoration of the kinds of regulations that kept our financial system stable for 70 years, and now they're trying to dismantle the modest financial reforms that passed despite them.
It can't be the fight to turn back a bunch of "extreme" measures that Obama has been advancing. Whatever else one may think of the president, nothing he has proposed is extreme by any reasonable criterion. There isn't one proposal he's made that's outside what, 20 years ago, both Democrats and Republicans would have agreed was the American mainstream. There isn't one proposal that would be considered all that "liberal" - let alone extreme or radical -- in any of the other rich, capitalist democracies.
The fight isn't about these or any other substantive issues. The fighting is an end in itself, and it's a national disgrace. Never in our history, at least since the 1850s, has our political system been more broken. We Americans face serious challenges, but paralysis in Washington prevents us from meeting them. The pitch from the National Review -- "RESIST!" -- reveals what the problem is: Republicans have chosen, as a political strategy, to prevent anything from being accomplished.
It is well-documented that even before Obama took office, congressional Republicans decided on their goal: we're going to make this president fail. If nothing can get accomplished, the Republicans figured, the people will blame the president and throw him out of office.
That strategy failed in the 2012 election, but remains in place. The Heritage Foundation recently sent a memo to Republicans in Congress: don't legislate, focus on discrediting the president. A Republican senator from Pennsylvania recently acknowledged that a modest gun control bill lost because many Republicans wanted to deny the president a legislative success.
With Republicans in control of the House, since 2010, they are able to prevent any legislation from passing. Last year's Congress accomplished less than any in memory. This year's Congress is no better. Republicans aren't just blocking efforts to enact solutions for genuine American problems -- they're working to create additional problems.
They welcomed the meat-ax butchering of the budget in the sequester. And they're gearing up to create another wholly unnecessary crisis over the debt ceiling. (The debt ceiling, it should be understood, isn't about controlling spending but only about paying bills we've already incurred.)
The nation pays an enormous price when our political system fails to meet our needs. Anyone who chooses to cripple our government for political advantage is the opposite of a patriot. Making the president fail - we only have one president at a time -- means making the country fail, and making the American people suffer. No real patriot would want that.
True conservatives should tell their leaders that the watchword is not "RESIST!" but cooperate and compromise to find solutions. That is the American way. That's how we got to be a great nation.
A representative who does not propose or support serious proposals to solve our problems, but only fights to block anyone else's ideas from being enacted, should shape up or be replaced.
Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic candidate for Congress from Virginia's 6th District, is an author whose books include, Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War.