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Love thee, gridlock

| Thursday, January 30, 2014

After watching President Obama deliver his State of the Union address this past Tuesday, I felt frustrated.

Why was I frustrated? Obama declared during the course of his speech that this coming year will be one of “action,” of progress — much of it potentially driven by executive action — on issues like climate change, education, immigration and income inequality. I’m not frustrated by the content of this modest agenda. Rather, I’m crabby because I know that despite its limited scope, much of this agenda will hit the lovable, non-dysfunctional brick wall and cast of cuddly characters known as the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some optimists point to last year’s bipartisan budget deal as proof of an atmosphere of increased political cooperation, of a reduction of the gridlock and brinkmanship that has characterized our beloved Congress in the past year.

“Maybe now both sides will stop throwing darts at life-sized photos of one another and get along,” they exclaim while buying J.C. Penney stock and listening to music on their Zunes. The reality is that from gun control to the minimum wage, from the Affordable Care Act to unemployment insurance, from the debt ceiling to infrastructure spending, Republicans and Democrats aren’t exactly shaking hands and singing kumbaya.

Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner are having more than enough trouble even keeping their own parties in line, as seen by an increasingly rebellious GOP faction in the House and surprising number of Democrats willing to break with the president on Iranian sanctions. Immigration reform does present a potential window for bipartisan legislative progress, but with House Republicans supportive of step-by-step, bill-by-bill reform while Obama seeks a more comprehensive overhaul, I remain cautiously optimistic about its prospects for success. Simply put, it will be far from easy for Obama to accomplish key parts of his new vision before the political “Polar Vortex” know as midterm elections dumps several feet of vanity and hair gel on Washington, D.C.

I may be frustrated with the state of politics at the moment, but I also feel like I should end by putting the aforementioned problems in perspective. Nobody has violently prevented me from voting lately (as in Thailand), I haven’t been jailed or labeled a terrorist because of my political affiliation (Egypt) nor have members of my own government targeted my home with chemical weapons or makeshift barrel bombs filled with shrapnel (Syria).

Nonetheless, I can’t see 2014 being a “year of action.” Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Ralph Nader enthusiast, I think we can all look forward to yet another year of teeth grinding politics.

Contact Dan Brombach at dbrombac@nd.edu
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


About Dan Brombach

Viewpoint Editor, Class of 2014

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