Was I wrong?
NOT REALLY, WHICH is kind of sad when you think about it.
It was just over one year ago (on the day that Barack Obama won election to a four-year term as president, to be exact) that I wrote a commentary that I wish reflected bad on my comprehension of electoral politics.
It was a piece of analysis wondering how close the Obama administration’s ability to govern would come to those years from the mid-1980s that we now recall as “Council Wars” on account of the fact that a vocal opposition did whatever it could to thwart the governmental desires of then-Mayor Harold Washington.
About the only aspect of that commentary where I wrote that a segment of the U.S. population would, “spend the next four years doing whatever they can to thwart an Obama presidency from achieving its goals” that hasn’t fully come true is the part where I pondered which politico would become the national equivalent of Edward R. Vrdolyak.
IN ALL HONESTY, none of them seem to have become the “face” of the opposition the way that Vrdolyak is still remembered as the namesake of the City Council opposition that openly defied everything Washington tried to do during his first couple of years as Chicago mayor.
Which means either that this particular band of political people either is somewhat bland, or personalities such as that belonging to “Fast Eddie” are a rare breed indeed.
I’m sure that Sarah Palin’s followers would like to think that the one-time Alaska governor has that kind of pull about her to lead people in opposition to Obama. Yet I don’t count her because at this point, she’s all talk.
She has no political position with authority that can be used. She can only try to shame the Republican members of Congress into going along with her will, which is the same as Rush Limbaugh and the assorted right-wing rabble that wishes they had Rush’s ratings and “talent” when they go “on the air.”
BUT LOOKING AT this first year of the Obama administration makes me realize that the same mentality that once inspired 29 aldermen to band together to vote against anything Washington even hinted he liked is the same that creates the partisan political votes for what may well have been the two big accomplishments from the federal government this year – getting the Senate to confirm Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice and to approve a health care reform package that (while watered down considerably) still gets criticism as being “too radical.”
The mentality that allowed some members of Congress in good conscience to think we’d be better off doing nothing to resolve the situation of some 47 million U.S. residents without any form of health insurance is the same as the one that once allowed members of Congress to refuse to confirm mayoral appointments for years (meaning some people ultimately got confirmed to positions whose terms had already expired).
Some people thought that a short-term loss related to the daily operations of government would be beneficial in the long run if it meant preventing anything that a “disliked” chief executive might well be able to use as an “accomplishment.”
There are those who will try to give Obama credit for getting through a health care reform proposal (assuming, of course, that the measure is not killed off by a conference committee that can’t resolve differences between the Senate and House of Representatives’ versions of the bill), while others will claim that the big victors of 2009 were the Republican officials who were able to make Obama’s professional life so difficult.
FOR MY PART, I’m thankful that the U.S. Senate literally wound up this year with that “filibuster-proof” majority. For if there really were 41 Republican members of the U.S. Senate, then we likely would have had our government achieve absolutely nothing during the previous year. Which is why the 2010 elections will be interesting.
It usually happens that the opposition political party to the president gains some strength in the mid-term elections. And even if you believe there isn’t going to be a massive shift in political power during the upcoming year, all it will take is for a couple of states to shift and we really will get the stalemate that was “Council Wars” to occur on Capitol Hill.
Ultimately, the cheap rhetoric and namecalling that bordered on racial slurs was embarrassing to Chicago. But it was the willingness of some Chicago officials to do nothing out of spite to the chief executive that was the real shame of that political era in the mid-1980s.
I would like to think that we won’t experience the same offensive silliness some nearly three decades later on the national level.