Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Obstructionism

Senator Harry Reid, Democratic minority leader, has come under fire by Republicans for being "determined to obstruct President Bush's agenda." The New York Times reported that Republicans released a 13-page report highlighting Senator Reid's obstructionist tactics.

There is nothing new about this strategy. Republicans hounded Senator Reid's predecessor, Tom Daschle, for being an obstructionist. One interpretation, probably the Republicans' preferred understanding, is that both men were truly obstructionis and sought to obstruct for the sake of obstruction. More likely, the strategy of calling the Democratic leaders obstructionists is a political ploy to curry favor with the public. Remember how President Clinton won a political showdown with "obstructionist" Republicans who had shut down Congress? Republicans are trying to do the same thing here.

There are different levels of obstruction. Shutting down the government is one form, and voting against a bill is another. If the majority party supports a policy, and the minority party opposes, is that obstruction? Under this approach, dissent is to be frowned upon. But, as I wrote when blogging about the rhetoric of President Bush, dissent is essential to the health of our democracy. Consequently, when we hear cries of obstruction, we should stop to ask what exactly it is that is "obstruction." Some forms are healthy, like policy disagreement, other forms are not, like the complete shutting down of government. There are tactics that fall in between these two extremes, such as the filibuster, and whether that is obstruction or not is for people to decide for themselves (ideally, views of the filibuster should be the same regardless of who is doing the filibustering).

Make no mistake that were the tables turned, Democrats would be accusing Republicans of blocking progress. Obstruction and progress are in the eyes of the beholder.

2 Comments:

Blogger bum said...

People laughed when I revealed I voted for myself for President in the last election but your piece highlights one of the many reasons why I did. This report is a waste of time and paper/server space/whatever. I don't know or even care if the democratic minority leader disagrees with Bush's policies, my issue is with the timing of this report or the lack there of.

It would make more sense to release this report if a filibuster was taking place or if he was the speaker of the house and/or senate refused to call this for a vote. But here we have neither situation. Much of what Bush has proposed has not come up for vote or debate yet, but they find time to write a report stating that one man is holding up the process. Give me a break. Even if this guy disagrees w/ Bush's policies because he just doesn't like the President, I would hope the idiots...ooops, I mean Americans, elected people who are not afraid to speak their own mind when it comes to the issues (instead of blindly following a person because he is "the leader" of your party).

2/09/2005 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger mrmawm said...

what little obstructionism the dems have been able to put on has not played well in the field. hence, hillary running like the wind to the middle, and someone out every day doing damage control of some kind. this is a party that is in free-fall and it's a long way to mid-terms. no disrespect intended, but they quite frankly look like a bunch of monkies in a cage at feeding time. if they don't calm down and get back to basics they are going to be significantly out-paced by registered independents. here's what I would do: put hillary in the lead, in the middle: put dean in her draft and let it ride; and make sure that by mid-terms they have bredesen on board and ready to draft on by because he's the only one who can pull moderate republican men over to the democratic lever.

2/10/2005 02:46:00 PM  

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