The Obama administration appears to be in a slight—a very slight—resting phase.
For a while the pace of change was so fast and furious that it seemed that each day there were about fifty pressing topics vying frantically for contention and discussion. Now there are only a few, and they are not so very pressing; not yet, that is. Now and then we even have what you might call a slow news day.
But there is no sense of being able to take a breather. Rather, there is the ominous feeling one gets as a storm approaches. The pressure builds and our joints ache. We look at the threatening sky and wonder just how bad it will be, and what form it will take. One huge domestic dark cloud looming at the moment is financial reform, with immigration reform and a climate change/energy bill waiting on the not-at-all-distant horizon, jostling for the privilege of being next on the agenda.
Why do I liken them to clouds and storms? After all, aren’t these issues that need tackling, problems that call out for solution (except, perhaps, for climate change—although proponents of the bill are managing to act as though Climategate has not happened and/or is irrelevant)? Is it not clear, for example, that financial reform is needed to prevent another meltdown like the one that occurred in fall of 2008? And that illegal immigration is a problem that has gotten out of hand, and has been ignored way too long?
Yes, and yes.
The problem is that most Americans’ trust in the ability of Congress to solve such things, or even to tackle them in a way that will not make them worse, is nonexistent. The idea that our representatives would listen to our concerns, be responsive to our needs, and then have the intelligence to craft solutions based on common sense and/or intelligent thought or even well-meaning effort has been waning over the years but has finally evaporated. If there had been any lingering faith in Congress, HCR erased it.
We have come to expect lies, so that now when we hear “we have the votes” or “we lack the votes,” one means about the same as the other and neither can be trusted. For the most part, our press is no more help to us than Pravda was to the Soviets. We have come to understand that the idea of bipartisan compromise has died a lingering and painful death (unless the term happens to refer to Lindsay Graham, who for a while kept the “bi” in “bipartisan,” appearing to have previously been—at least as far as I can ascertain—the sole Republican on board with both the immigration and climate change bills. He has since threatened to bail on the latter because he says it is being ignored at the expense of the former.)
We assume that the cure will be worse than the disease. We expect that the bills will be rushed through without proper debate and enacted at the stroke of midnight, like evil spells in a fairy tale. We are no longer surprised at the depth and breadth of the corrupt and shady behind-the-scenes deals involved. We know the legislations will be lengthy and complex. We do not think our representatives possess the intelligence to even understand the bills they pass—that is, if they bother to read them at all—and either do not appreciate their negative consequences or actually intend them to do us harm. We know that, just when we think we’ve driven a fatal stake into the heart of an unpopular bill, it rises and staggers forward to attack us.
We do not know what the outcome of the election of 2010 will be, except that it is likely to involve an increase in the number of Republicans in Congress, and that it cannot possibly come fast enough to stop the multiple storms that are part of this increasingly threatening weather pattern. And these are not passing storms, either—we predict that they are likely to do permanent and perhaps irreparable damage to important structures that have remained in place for centuries.
We scan the skies, and we wait.
[NOTE: I've dealt mainly with domestic policies in this post. That's not to say that there aren't major international storms looming as well. But Congress isn't a big part of the mix on most of the latter---although Obama and his advisers are.]
[ADDENDUM: The Anchoress adds her reflections.]