So, after two weeks of posturing and pontificating, Republicans in the Senate balked at providing Detroit automakers the assistance the “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – has indicated it needs to make it the first quarter of next year. After the House leadership had finally reached agreement with the White House, Senate Republicans took a walk, claiming that labor was unwilling to make wage concessions.
If this is the GOP playbook for the incoming presidential administration, the party should expect to continue to bleed seats in Congress and start seeing similar losses in state houses. At a time when all Americans are feeling pressure to make it day to day, “labor bashing” is no longer going to be sufficient as a political strategy. The days of simply being “anti” are over. Republicans have to start standing for something and this point, after their performance last week, what that something is, is anybody’s guess.
To listen to Republican leadership suggest that U.S. automakers deserve no help since the car companies and greedy unions brought this financial crisis on themselves, requires patience. These are the same Senators who said nary a word when Wall Street executives came a calling. There was no demand upon investment bankers, stockbrokers or hedge fund managers to sacrifice despite the obvious fact that many on the Street had benefited by exploiting others. Nor were the heads of Wall Street firms lambasted for their travel in corporate jets. Republicans opposed the bailout for one reason: labor unions. They simply used Rick Waggoner as a whipping boy for the symbolism of taking on corporate excess. It is the type of class warfare that in the past may have worked but when Republican households are facing foreclosure and party partisans are losing their jobs it is quickly exposed for what it is: nonsense.
Senate Republicans were obviously looking at some polls that indicated most Americans were against bailing out the auto industry. That should be expected from a public that is living on the edge and sees no reason why huge corporations should be given assistance when one is coming to the aid of ordinary citizens. What the Republicans don’t recognize is that the lapse of judgment by the public in the heat of the moment will turn to rage if one of these auto manufacturers goes under and millions more workers lose their jobs. It won’t be ripple. It will be a tsunami that overwhelms the nation and touches many of the same people who opposed the bailout without understanding how interconnected the auto industry is in the economy.
The GOP’s opposition is short sighted for another reason. It comes straight from a playbook that most Americans rejected on November 4. It is also as unpatriotic as can be considering we are in the midst of a national crisis and it is widely acknowledged that there will have to be significant federal intervention to get the country back on track. By simply saying “no” and passing the buck to the White House, Senate Republicans abdicated their responsibility and sent a message that politics is more importance than governance.
Rather than follow President-elect Obama’s lead and operate in a true spirit of bipartisanship, it looks like Republicans on the Hill have already started laying out the strategy for the 2010 midterm elections. One would think that November’s job loss numbers would have scared some common sense into all lawmakers. We can no longer afford to pay the high cost of oppositional politics. Time is of the essence if our nation is to get back on its feet. There will come a day for partisan bickering, at least we hope we will rebound to the point where such debates are held in the spirit of our democracy. However, that time is not now. For all the flag waving Republicans in DC do, last week they left their footprints all over ‘Ole Glory.