Washington is on a losing streak because what a bipartisan coalition of politicians once believed to be sure things have fallen apart.
Over the past five or six years, the playing field has changed for Republicans and Democrats. A growing cynicism over politics, a weak economy and a fed-up public have reshuffled the deck of conventional-wisdom cards.
Vested self-interest — that lubricant that has moved many a policy through Washington’s rusty engine of government — no longer has the same appeal. That’s especially true for Republicans. The Tea Party is calling the shots and its activists are more interested in bridge-burning than bridge-building.
Early in his first term in the White House, Barack Obama bet an economic stimulus with something for all lawmakers could win bipartisan support. He was wrong. Only a handful of Republicans in the House and Senate supported the stimulus, though the dissenters weren’t shy about taking credit for the projects the stimulus delivered back home.
Obama and congressional leaders from both parties bet that the automatic spending cuts in the sequester would be so distasteful and haphazard that they would be forced to come together for a grand bargain to control the nation’s longterm debt. Nope. That, too, turned out to be a losing bet.
The biggest loser is Obama and his plans for reforming health care in the United States.
He bet that some Republicans might support a law designed by Republicans and first implemented by Republicans. Wrong.
He bet that congressional Republicans would eventually see the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land. Wrong.
He bet that governors, even Republican ones, would sign up to expand Medicaid for state residents. Who would say no to expansion when the feds pick up almost all of the costs? Plenty, including Alabama’s Robert Bentley, whose ideology trumped granting health insurance to 300,000 working Alabamians. Another losing wager for Obama.
As we head into 2014, it appears political leaders are merely idling until the odds come back into their favor.