These days D.C.-area football fans aren’t the only ones sorely let down.
Once again, hyped new personnel were brought into the nation’s capital – not just to the NFL’s Redskins, but to the White House — on the promise of change you could believe in. Now both Redskins devotees and American citizens everywhere are struggling with disappointment.
So much for the familiar refrain that Washingtonians are incapable of understanding the frustrations brewing outside the beltway.
President Obama was swept into power by campaigning as the great unifier. He vowed to transcend partisan divisions and the push-and-pull of Washington special interests to restore the promise of the American dream for everyone. Yet the past 11 months have led reasonable people everywhere to question whether candidate Obama was merely taking them for a ride.
President Obama has forged ahead with a narrow ideological agenda that has compromised his ability to create sustainable jobs and thereby fix our nation’s most pressing problems. The failure to match actions with rhetoric has sunk the president’s approval ratings – ranging between 44 and 49 percent – to unprecedented lows for first-year presidents.
From the stimulus to the budget to health care, Republicans have offered substantive solutions in a good-faith effort to work with the administration. During the rare occasions when we have held discussions at the White House, the President has paid our proposals mere lip service when the cameras are on, only to rebuff our ideas in their entirety once the meeting ends.
As a result, the history books may well look back on the beginning of the Obama Presidency as the era of squandered opportunities.
* Bipartisanship. On both the stimulus and health care – not to mention a slew of other measures – President Obama failed to secure more than a shred of House Republican backing. Never before has such important and transformative legislation passed Congress without significant bipartisan accord.
* Transparency/clean government. President Obama vowed that his presidency would bring unprecedented transparency and cleaner government. Yet his two most sweeping initiatives, the stimulus and the health care bill, have both been concocted behind closed doors and airdropped onto the House and Senate floors with minimal time for Members to read and debate the legislation.
* Health care. At the beginning of the year, bipartisan majorities of Congress favored taking action to make health care cheaper, more accessible and of higher-quality. But the tangled 2,733-page mess of a health care bill that emerged from the Senate – like its House counterpart – fails to take on certain entrenched interests in order to lower costs. The Congressional Budget Office says that millions of Americans who do not get health insurance through their employers face up to 13 percent increases in their premiums.
It didn’t have to be this way. Republicans proposed real medical liability reform to eliminate billions of waste in defensive medicine, but we were rebuked in a nod to the all-powerful trial lawyer lobby. We proposed to eliminate taxpayer funding of a program that could lead to the rationing of care on the basis of cost, but House Democrats refused to budge. We wanted to give small businesses the power to pool together and offer health care at lower prices, but the House bill instead slaps small businesses with onerous mandates and taxes.
* Stimulus. As unemployment spiked, Congress passed a $787 billion so-called stimulus which – much to the well-documented embarrassment of the administration – has failed to create the jobs it promised. This was a chance to improve incentives for genuine job creation, and that’s why Republicans proposed cutting taxes for small businesses. The administration and congressional Democrats said ‘no,’ and instead produced a bill heavy on pork and increased spending for government programs.
Like the Redskins, who had to fire their coach and bring in new leadership, the American people are growing tired of the Democrats and getting closer and closer to firing them by the day.
Last month, Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama announced he was leaving the Democratic caucus and becoming a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When a Member of Congress decides to leave a 258 seat majority to join a rebuilding minority, it is a sure sign that the majority party has grown disconnected from the American people. We can only hope the administration – having already exhausted most of the good will it enjoyed upon taking power – will change course and in the new year begin to work with Republicans to move the country forward.
Eric Cantor is a fifth-term Congressman representing the 7th District of Virginia. He recently won re-election to Congress in November 2008. In December 2008, Eric was elected to serve as the Republican Whip.