What a difference sixteen days can make.
Back on December 6, I was super-irked at President Obama and urged people to do what I'd just done: unsubscribe from Organizing for America email alerts to tell his online presence extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy doesn't cut it with us once-fervent Obama supporters.
Today I re-registered my email address with OFA. I'm back on (indirect) speaking terms with Obama, because his handling of the lame duck Congress after November's crushing Democratic setback in the midterm election was masterful.
Or, amazingly lucky. Maybe a bit of both.
Regardless, getting the New Start arms control treaty ratified by the Senate today was the icing on a productive legislative cake for me. Like I said before, the tax cut deal he reached with Republicans started to look better to me when the details became apparent.
Getting the ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy overturned added more fuel to my increasingly warmer feelings about Obama. I've heartily enjoyed listening to gay service members talk about how important this act was to them, and how it will strengthen the military.
This afternoon I also had no problem watching Fox News when a panel discussed the lame duck session of Congress. Clearly this stuck in the craw of the conservative commentators, but they had to admit that Obama is back.
And that he ended up with way more legislative wins than could have predicted during the dark post-election days less than two months ago.
Credit, of course, has to be shared with the Republican senators who had the guts (and patriotism) to put country above politics. Approving the New Start treaty was the right thing to do, according to almost every military, foreign policy, and diplomatic expert. However, the Senate Republican leadership was focused on denying Obama a victory, not on the national interest.
Here's some advice for Republicans from a progressive who sort of wishes they don't take it -- because this would decrease GOP chances of beating the Dems again in 2012.
People are tired of divisiveness and do-nothingness in Congress. The lame duck session was a breath of political fresh air. I even had occasional warm feelings toward Republican senators this past week, and that's unususal for me.
GOP strategists would be well-advised to look for more opportunities to partner with Obama and the Democrats, naturally without sacrificing their party's role as a loyal opposition. Independent and moderate voters are going to be a lot more inclined to go with "R's" next election if the Republican Party stops looking like it is batshit crazy on key issues.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, since I want to see Obama re-elected in 2012), I don't think the Republican leadership in Congress will end up going in that direction.
They'll succumb at crucial times to extreme Tea Party demands, maybe even going so far as to shut the federal government down by refusing to pass a reasonable budget, or panicking financial markets by failing to raise the national debt ceiling.
Great for Obama's re-election chances, bad for the country.
If Republicans are smart, they'll find a middle way where they work with Obama and the Dems on important issues like deficit reduction, tax reform, and energy policies, while staking out alternative stands where the differences between "R" and "D" are too large to bridge.