Congressional Groundhog Day

Is there a phrase for knowing well in advance that you have been there before? Psychic déjà vu? I can see it all before me.

Congress pontificates incessantly about the need for fiscal responsibility. They take votes over and over again to repeal “Obamacare” in the name of the American people, even though poll after poll indicates the American people just want Congress to get over it and move on. The media begins to show a clock counting down toward a government shutdown and the cataclysm that is the failure to raise the debt ceiling. There is this powerful neophyte who will spew indignant ignorance that will inexplicably make leadership shiver and pay attention. In my vision it will be a Ted someone… Ted Boat. No, not Boat. Maybe it is Ted Ship. No, wait, that is not it. Cruise – that is it! Spelled differently mayhap, but I can clearly see the bombastic pomposity taking shape. I think I also envision an Oompa Loompa involved somehow, terrified of losing his job and saying and doing anything and everything he can to appease and placate Mr. Wonka. Wait, no, it is John Boehner!  The orange hue threw me off.

We are living in Congressional Groundhog Day. The budget and debt ceiling are only the climax of the reoccurring plotline. We have seen this with immigration reform. And background checks.  And anything else the President has his imprimatur on. Even legislative initiatives that have “Republican” written all over them – let the stalling and spinning begin. It was not always like this. This is not simple “business as usual” or “something is broken in Washington.” Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil agreed on nothing politically, but they worked together – and drank together. In recognition of who was elected president and for the ultimate good of the nation, they worked together.

It almost seems as if the Republicans in Congress (not to quote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) have made it their “single most important goal” to block, prevent, impede, delay, defeat, obstruct, and downright barricade anything that could be interpreted as a win for the Obama administration. What could it possibly be? Sure, Democrats want to defeat Republicans and visa versa, but the level of animus and antipathy have scaled never before seen heights. Odd because, from where this lefty is sitting, Obama is far from a left-wing progressive. If anything, his moderate, middle-of-the-road politics have left me wanting and waiting. So what could it be? Maybe a Harvard-versus-Yale sort of thing? Maybe the Republicans are still indignant over the way Barack’s campaign went after Hillary? What makes this presidency so different from all others?

How could I have overlooked it? Our president is black. The fact that Barack Obama is our president does not mean racism is dead and buried in this country. If anything, the last five years only serve to highlight and underscore that racism is very much alive and well. And sitting in Congress. This is not just a Legislature that wants to block the president’s agenda. There’s a palpable desire to humiliate him, to excoriate him, to bring him to his knees. And to hell with the nation to do it. You can smell it in the air. You can feel it in the breeze. It is all around us, but no one really seems to want to talk about it anymore. No one wants to analyze where this level of rhetoric and vitriol and obstructionism is stemming from. There is a mirror no one wants to hold up to the nation and its representatives. We are all too afraid of pointing fingers, too afraid of accusation and incrimination – no matter how true it may be. And the barely contained racist hate speech continues to pour forth from the Tea Party. And Michele Bachmann is given her platform. And Ted Cruz is handed a ludicrous amount of political clout on a silver platter. And the country stands over a precipice. Barack Obama’s presidency has oddly frightened us away from talking about race at precisely the time we need to be talking about it the most.

And the clock begins to count down again. The new debt ceiling deadline is February 6, 2014. Let Groundhog Day begin.

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