Forget Plan B: carry on

Perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker: "Where are we going and why am I in this basket?" In some poignant, dispiriting way that sums up the current state of our union. Watching the recent election unfold is like living in some alternative universe, the national vote completely counterintuitive.

What has become clear over the last two years, however, is that the Republicans are really good, perhaps even brilliant, at being the party of opposition. They have managed to shape the national narrative in their favor while doing absolutely nothing to assist with the truly urgent, over-the-cliff problems faced by the nation since President Obama took office.

The Red Dogs decided from the outset that they would do everything in their power to block Obama's agenda. No matter that they might agree with some of it. They would be the party of "Hell no you can't," to quote the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner. It has been a vivid lesson in Obstructionism 101.

What they've managed to do is convince the electorate that the change you can believe in is the new, re-branded Republican Party, energized by the tea party, a Libertarian-neoconservative hybrid crew who brought to the mix vociferous energy fueled by anger and little else. But then, policy is not what this is about.

The Republicans have demonized the Democrats as the purveyors of tax and spend and big government. It's inspired rhetoric no matter how fraudulent and no matter that in the end it will make America all but ungovernable. But then, for the Repubs, this isn't about solving the nation's problems, it's all about power. In fact, Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, stated unequivocally that the Republicans would devote the next two years making sure Obama was a one-term president. That's their agenda.

So there you go. The Republicans' fierce urgency of now means recapturing the White House while rolling back the Democrats' legislative accomplishments. The people have spoken, they insist. Really?

Do Americans really want to repeal health care reform? Seriously? Was that the mandate implicit in this election? The health care act represents legislation that has eluded presidents since Theodore Roosevelt.

Over the next 10 years some 32 million uninsured Americans will have some form of health care insurance. By 2014, insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Already young adults can remain on their parents' plan until the age of 26, and children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. The doughnut hole will close.

It's historic, it will be improved, and it reduces the deficit by $143 billion. So says the CBO. Citizens declaring bankruptcy because of insolvency driven by health care will be a thing of the past. This is no small thing. And yet, the Republicans will make this legislation's repeal their first order of business while claiming to be listening to the American people. Good grief.

And do we really want to shut down the stimulus bill (which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, increased jobs by some 3 million)? Do we want to jettison Wall Street financial reform as well as the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that will target predatory lending? Do we want to once again have credit card companies jacking up rates without warning while luring college kids into unconscionable debt? Do we want to abandon all efforts to go green, reduce carbon emissions, and once again allow the global warming deniers to begin redacting real science? Obama's stimulus bill included $94 billion for clean energy. Cancel that?

And when did it become de rigueur to demonize government? There are some things that government can do, and do well. Ask anyone who has Medicare. Check out the Centers for Disease Control, etc. Government is not the enemy. To believe that its intent is to strip its citizenry of their inalienable rights is the stuff of fantasists.

It can make good political copy, it can offer shelter to ideologues and demagogues, but it is harmful to America to insist that our government and our president are the enemy. During the BP spill, it was the government that the conservative Republican governors such as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal were looking to. Irony of all ironies. They called NOAA and the EPA and the Coast Guard and a dozen other agencies asking that they confront this environmental disaster. And hurry! Recall that it was the unregulated, time-is-money private sector that caused the catastrophe.

Well, the Republicans, as surreal as it may seem, are back in control of the House of Representatives. Now it's time to see how they govern. Unless, of course, it's not about governing but about letting the country go south in a handbasket as they position themselves for 2012 and taking down Obama. Hopefully, the White House will fight back. Forget plan B (compromise). Stand on principle.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.

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