When President Barack Obama appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart on Wednesday, Oct. 27, Stewart respectfully took the President to task, provoking some degree of consternation, as reported on the New York Times. As the mostly friendly interview progressed, he hit President Obama with questions that couldn’t entirely be called softballs- for example, skewering the concept that “hope and change” were valid election themes any more, and that, as seen on YouTube, “the Democrats this year seem to be running on, ‘please, baby, one more chance.'” At one point, feeling defensive, President Obama noted that he didn’t want to lump Stewart in with other pundits. Stewart riposted by noting he didn’t want to lump President Obama in with other presidents.
The overall tone was to defend his administration’s busy agenda, citing health care reform as an example and stating, “we’ve done things that some folks don’t know about.” To which Stewart quickly responded, “What have you done that we don’t know about? Are you planning a surprise party for us? Filled with jobs and health care!”
The case could be made that Stewart and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party feel let down by the President. They’re able to point to the continued existence of the Guantanamo detention center; a lack of movement on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the D.O.A. prospects for climate change law; and the exclusion of a public option in health care reform. This could be seen as desire for faster change in response to more measured, gradual progress toward the left-leaning goals and agenda.
The Nov. 2 elections, however, will bring about both an immediate change and a forcible gradual change as well.
Respected election forecaster FiveThirtyEight suggests that leadership of the House will be handed over to the Republican Party. According to Rasmussen Reports, the Senate may just barely return to Democratic control for the next two years, though possibly no longer with Senator Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader if he’s unseated in Nevada. Under those circumstances, there will likely be a quixotic attempt to repeal health care reform, unfeasible due to the likelihood of a veto. More importantly, even in the extremely unlikely event Democrats retain all of Congress, it is very doubtful that the ambitious agenda President Obama initially laid out in 2008 will advance far, in particular in anticipation of a tough 2012 presidential election year.
What may be most interesting to watch will be how newly minted Tea Party senators will react to the legislative process. The Senate is a body in which any one senator can block legislation with a single anonymous decision. It is entirely possible to block procedure and paralyze the process at any step.
Voters may expect and receive change with a split Congress, and they will succeed in cooling the jets of Congress and the White House. Anticipate cries of “gridlock” and the urging for bi-partisanship to emerge as the opposing political parties both find themselves in the position of having to be the “party of no.” How voters will receive the transition from gradual to no progress on legislation can best be weighed in 2012.
FiveThirtyEight, “House Race Ratings” New York Times
Rasmussen Reports, “Election 2010: Senate Balance of Power”
Michael D. Shear, “Heck of a Reference, Mr. President” New York Times
CBSNewsOnline, “Obama Visits Stewart’s “Daily Show”” YouTube.com