The leadership vacuum in the Republican Party is providing president elect Obama with a unique opportunity. On Monday he is holding a bi-partisan meeting with the congressional leadership, while later in that same week Republican leaders will hold a meeting without the RNC. Could Obama become a force in both parties?
Barack Obama ran for president on a platform of bi-partisanship, so on the surface, the meeting that will take place on Monday will be a sign that he is sticking to the words of his campaign. Obama only needs between 1-3 votes in the Senate, depending on how the situations in Illinois and Minnesota play out, to pass any of his legislative priorities. He didn’t have to invite the GOP leadership to woo them, so why did he?
Beyond the obvious keeping of a campaign promise, Obama did so because he did so because he sees a historic opening. One has to go back to the post-Watergate days to find a time when the Republican Party was in such disarray, but even then, Republicans recovered quickly. A more accurate historical comparison is the Republican meltdown caused by the Great Depression.
It is every man and woman for themselves in the GOP right now. How bad are things for the GOP? According to The Hill, for the first time in party history, members have a called an unscheduled meeting without the Republican National Committee for the purposes of holding a candidate forum ahead of the election of a new party chairperson.
The party is so divided that the election is expected to be a complicated, multi-ballot affair. Add to this, the arrival of a popular Democrat to Pennsylvania Avenue, and it is clear that Obama has a once in a century chance to guide the nation. If Obama sticks to working in a truly bi-partisan fashion, he will not only pass legislation, but change the culture of Washington.
We have had a generation of gridlock and partisanship that must end in order for the legislative branch to be effective again. Many Republican leaders still don’t see why they should change, but if Obama courts moderate Republicans, he could build a coalition that leaves the leadership out in the cold.
Obama only needs a little Republican support to do what he wants. If a few Republicans find it politically advantageous to back Obama on an issue, then bills will pass. As long as Obama governs from the middle, he will have some Republican support, and some support is all he needs.