The party of "no"

By most accounts, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s response to President Obama’s speech to Congress was not a success. Conservative columnists like David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer panned the Jindal performance, both on content and on style. Radio host Rush Limbaugh seems to be the only observer willing to give Jindal a passing grade. The GOP, minus a few exceptions, have consistently opposed the stimulus package. They say it’s excessive and want more tax cuts instead—the same old recipe that brought this crisis on in the first place.

The Republicans have decided that the best way to fight the recession and the financial meltdown is to reject any attempts at bipartisan solutions. It takes gumption for the GOP to behave as if it hads’t controlled Congress for 12 of the last 14 years and the White House for 20 of the last 28 years, spending the whole time working to deregulate financial markets and running record deficits. To use a rising star like Jindal, sometimes referred to as “the GOP’s Obama,” just added cynicism to the mix.

The Jindal message was uninspiring and downright parochial. It was base politics with no new ideas, a rehashing of a conservative message from another era. Since Obama’s victory, Republicans appear aimless and their emphasis on personality politics does not augur well. (Take, for example, Sarah Palin’s recent interviews, in which she complains about being treated shabbily by the media, but offers little in terms of ideas.)

Republicans should try to show that politics as conducted during the Bush era is no longer the way it chooses to act. The crisis facing Americans will be long and difficult and there will be time for politics as usual later on. It does not mean giving the Obama-Biden a blank cheque. But it is time for creativity and innovation. But it seems that Republicans would rather heed Rush Limbaugh’s call to oppose Obama at all costs. They have no regrets over the recent past and the disastrous policies of the Bush administration. Just say no to change—any change—because it comes from the Democrats.

The Republican party is failing at its democratic role. Obama may be off to an impressive start, but democracy is best served when there is a viable alternative. The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan has given way to the party of “no.” And anyway you look at it, America loses.

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