For the time being, Washington has settled down to what appears to be a stalemate between President Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress. Although the president hints at compromise, it is clear that anything he proposes will be quickly rejected. His offers on Social Security and Medicare will be resisted because he will make them on condition that the GOP embraces a tax increase. This clearly will not happen.
Republicans can feel good about their prospects, gun control is bogged down and Obama's legislative agenda is foundering. State legislatures controlled by the GOP are brazenly challenging Roe v. Wade, and North Carolina is tightening up laws on divorce. With the sole exception of gay marriage, Obama has drawn a blank on nearly everything else. As with his Easter air balls, nothing is dropping. It seems that Obama is in a prolonged slump.
Or is he? Obama, unlike Clinton, has used the "bully pulpit" to advance large ideas. He returned to the fun themes, and polls still give him an edge on this issue. And although the agenda he has presented has not been advanced, it most assuredly provokes discussion. In the United States, the wheels of the legislative progress turn slowly - but they turn. Theodore Roosevelt proposed the income tax in his second term, and it was a letdown by the "old guard" of the GOP. John Kennedy saw Medicare defeated in 1962. Eventually, both measures were passed.
Even Newtown, although it has very little effect on Congress, has inspired states like Colorado and Connecticut to tighten restrictions. Some other red states have loosened already lax laws in protest. Obama may have lost a battle or two, but he may well be winning the more important intellectual war.
The percentage of those owning a gun has held steady at 33 percent, down from the high 40-percentile in 2000. People who collect guns simply own more of them, but fewer people are owning them. Meanwhile, the gay marriage issue has the potential of dividing libertarian Republicans from evangelicals. Some resent the paring down of their benefits to protect rich taxpayers. No one can divide the public quite like Obama or promote discussion. He is working the locks and eventually, with luck, will open the doors.
Immigration as well entices moderate conservatives- while worrying those in favor of stricter laws. As the public talks, actions deemed nearly impossible, suddenly become probable. Again, gay marriage, which seemed hopeless after 2004, becomes plausible in 2013. As demographics continue to favor social liberals, Republican resistance becomes a matter of considerable political risk. In the end, it may well be the GOP that finds itself in a quandary.
Now, some in the GOP stick to the old faith-of-ourfathers argument wanting "a choice not an echo." Since Obama's election in 2008, the approach is to wear down the president by attrition. But this tactic is risky, because it makes the Republicans responsible if they go wrong. In 2010, they could point to Democratic control of the federal government - both houses of Congress and the White House. This time, the message may not be so simple to advance.
However, barring a crisis, it seems the Republicans have placed Obama in a difficult position. But if the cultural winds continue to blow toward social liberalism, the GOP eventually might be in for quite a shock.