Last week when President Obama announced to the nation that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, he implored the country to recall the sense of unity Americans felt after the terror attacks on 9/11 and to set aside differences to move the country forward. Throughout the course of the past two years there has been very little unity of will from Republicans to do real work for the American people, but the president took advantage of the fleeting communal pride in the country’s accomplishment in finding Osama bin Laden to reach out to Republicans. Although no Republicans rejected the president’s plea for harnessing the sense of accomplishment and unity out of hand, pundits on the right stepped up to deride the president’s call for unity and bipartisanship.
On Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Laura Ingraham warned that President Obama’s call for unity was little more than a political ploy and a trap. Ingraham had praise for the military’s execution of their mission but wondered how the president could go from praising the military to saying, “We all have to get along. We have to work shoulder-to-shoulder?” She claimed that just because bin Laden was killed the president expected Republicans to scuttle debate on the debt ceiling and “get along on momentous issues like immigration and other issues that are bubbling up to the surface.” According to Ingraham, politicians’ working together on the issues of the day is “just ludicrous” and that “it’s not how our country works.”
To be fair, since Obama has been in office that is not how our country works and it speaks volumes to the obstructionist tactics of Republicans in Congress. The president never said he wanted to scuttle debate and in fact, said he had “no illusions about the difficulties of the debates that we’ll have to be engaged in, in the weeks and months to come.” Obama stressed that “it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face.” President Obama is working under the premise that Republicans and Democrats both have the country’s interests at heart and with that goal, should be able to work for the common good through compromise and bipartisanship which is how the country is supposed to work.
Rush Limbaugh implied that the call for unity was a “veiled attempt to get the American people to set aside their principles and unify around Obama.” Limbaugh said that, “No, we are not unifying around liberalism here, folks. We are not unifying around Obama.” Rush also said that the American people know what to celebrate and they will not celebrate liberalism and that the president “asking us to set aside our principles as the means of showing unity is absurd, transparently absurd.” As if to destroy his own argument, Limbaugh said that after 9/11, “We didn’t rally around Bush after 9/11; we rallied around the nation. We rallied around our fellow citizens.” Limbaugh really makes the president’s point in that statement because Obama plainly implored the people to rally around the country and the common good of the people.
Limbaugh and Ingraham typify Republicans’ rejection of unity in working on the issues facing the nation on a daily basis since Barack Obama was sworn in as president over two years ago. It does not matter what particular issue has come up before Congress, Republicans have not worked with Democrats and are unabashed in their obstruction of issues or legislation that benefits the American people. During the health care debate, Republicans complained they were not allowed to participate in crafting the law even though many Republican ideas were included in the bill; still, every member voted against the health law.
When Congress was enacting financial reform, Republicans chose to obstruct meaningful legislation that protected consumers from predatory lending practices in lieu of protecting banks and credit card companies. Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech on immigration reform and reminded the audience that Republicans had stated they would not consider reforming the system until more assets were implemented to protect the borders. Obama reiterated that he had deployed thousands of border patrol agents, unmanned aerial drones, and various electronic surveillance apparatus and Republicans still refused to address reforming immigration. Republicans have no intention of working in a unified fashion for the good of the country despite the fact that the president had met all of their demands.
The president never asked Republicans or the country to unify around him, but instead, to work in a unified manner to address the problems and issues facing the country. There are really two disparate sides in Washington and one is working for the people and the other is working for big business and the oil industry. Even though there are divisions and different opinions within the Democratic caucus, the goals are what benefit the American people. It does not matter whether it was the health law, financial reform, or jobs bills; the good of the people is the goal of Democratic legislation. Republicans are unified, but they are unified in opposition to the American people as well as the nation’s economy.
The Republicans in Congress did not have to follow the lead of conservative pundits and openly reject President Obama’s calls for unity in working through the important issues facing the country. They have displayed nothing but disunity for over two years and there is little hope they will change anytime soon. It doesn’t matter what the president or Democrats propose, Republicans will oppose anything coming out of the White House. President Obama on the other hand has bent over backward to compromise with Republicans and has taken harsh criticism from his supporters and Democrats in Congress for conceding too much in the spirit of bipartisanship. The one overriding factor is that the president and Democrats are unified in working for the people; not the wealthy or corporate America.
Every Republican in Congress was elected to do the work of the people but they have done the exact opposite. The president never asked anyone to unify around him and Republicans and conservative pundits know it. He was straightforward in asking Americans and Republicans to take the sense of unity every American felt and use it to work together to debate and solve the issues facing the country. It was a noble request, but it will never happen as long as Republicans are working to obstruct Obama and please their corporate masters.
President Obama is facing an uphill battle in asking for unity from the Republicans because they are laboring under a different ideological mindset than Democrats. Republicans work tirelessly to keep the country divided by using fear of a Black president, immigrants, Muslims, and liberals and it is causing irrevocable harm. The only good to come out of the GOP’s divisive tactics is that Americans are noticing Republicans have nothing but contempt for people and the institution of government. After the compromise in December on the Bush-era tax cuts, polls showed the American people demand and expect their representatives to work in a bipartisan manner to do the business of the people.
Republicans did not get the memo that voters expect a semblance of unity in conducting government business and they will pay dearly unless they change. However, Republicans, like all conservatives seldom change and are unified in their attempts at bringing the government to a halt in order to portray President Obama as ineffective. The president was right to call for unity in solving America’s problems; it is what our representatives are elected to do and the American people expect both parties to participate. There will be an accounting by voters and they will not forget which party answered the call for unity. It was after all a call for unity to solve America’s problems; something Republicans will never understand.