Chuck Todd To Beto: How's That Hopey Changey Thing Workin' Out For Ya?
Presidential candidate and blogger Beto O'Rourke is currently selling "post-partisanship" as the answer to our dysfunctional politics. We hope he gets more takers than we did recently for our gently used Betamax. Look, there are a thousand Democrats running for the 2020 nomination and if O'Rourke thinks he can distinguish himself with a "hope and change" remix platform, who are we to remind him that Republicans exist? As Rodney King once asked, "Can't we all just get along?" Although, in fairness, King had recently suffered traumatic head injuries from a vicious police beating. It's uncertain why any politician fully in possession of their faculties would think they can find common cause with scumbags who pull shit like this:
Beto spoke with Chuck Todd while campaigning Sunday in Waterloo, Iowa. Todd couldn't zing him about being "over-prepared" like he did Hillary Clinton, so he instead asked how O'Rourke planned to make good on his promises of a big bipartisan orgy in DC and who'd have to oil down Mitch McConnell?
TODD: You aren't the first candidate to say, "I'm going to bring this country together." The most recent Democratic president, a lot of people put their hope in him and thought he was the answer that was going to do that. Why do you think that didn't happen in [Barack] Obama's eight years?
We'll get to O'Rourke's answer in a moment, but we suspect the reason Barack Obama wasn't able to magically "bring the country together" is because he's not a genie. Hell, not even fictional genies can pull this off. They always warn the poor schlub who finds them that anything they wish for will just backfire. He still wishes for "world peace" anyway because he's just so clever and suddenly he's the only person left on earth. Because genies love irony. But they can't fix stupid. Neither could Obama.
Even Martin Luther King himself didn't "bring the country" together. King's approval rating in 1966 was a whopping 33 percent. If you account for a mostly positive view from black people -- excluding the odd Clarence Thomas -- that leaves King extremely unpopular in Iowa. His unfavorable rating was at 63 percent with 44 percent viewing him highly unfavorably. That means white Americans aren't going to miss you that much when you're shot a couple years later in broad daylight.
The racial backlash directed at the first black president was real and documented. The Republicans happily rode a wave of racism to electoral victory in 2010, and a few years later expressed shock and alarm that the chief birther himself was "hijacking" their party. It's not Obama's fault that Fox News and your grandmother's racist email forwards tore the country apart beyond a single Magic Negro's ability to repair.
We're not that mad Todd asked O'Rourke this question. Elizabeth Warren's the candidate who's dropping detailed policy like Tupac dropped albums. "Heal the world" is O'Rourke's big single. It's fair to ask how he plans to deliver. It just burns us that Todd and most other pundits refuse to acknowledge that Republicans deliberately refused to work with Obama. It wasn't because he didn't serve them Big Macs when they visited the White House. They knew that denying him any bipartisan legislative success was key to their primary goal of making him a one-term president -- at which, like most things, they failed.
O'ROURKE: I know that President Obama worked incredibly hard to find common ground with Republicans. He was able to achieve a heck of a lot in those eight years.
Not to quibble but Obama's biggest achievements occurred when Democrats controlled the House and Senate with a supermajority. There's no compelling evidence that trying to "find common ground" with Republicans produced anything for him but migraines. Republicans shut down the government, screwed the US credit rating for ... reasons, and mostly refused to confirm his judges, including legitimate Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. They're really the worst. Even the most "meh" moderate who is content to spend their first term shining the GOP's shoes would still get obstructed so the GOP would have something to run against.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi doesn't receive nearly as much credit for holding together her caucus of moderates, liberals, and minor nuisances. It's how Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act and kept it the law of the land despite relentless GOP efforts to sabotage it. Most recently, it's how Democrats held firm and refused to budge on the shutdown over Donald Trump's stupid WALL.
What I'd like to hear pundits ask Democratic candidates is how they'll unleash their inner Pelosi, who is reportedly considering retiring in 2020. We should all know by now that working with Republicans is a fool's errand but managing a diverse group of Democrats is the path to true success.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.