President Obama will speak before both houses of Congress tonight on the State of the Union. Based on reports throughout the day, it seems that much of the country will be unlikely to tune in. For the first time he will give a State of the Union address at a time when he his own ranking in the polls is well under 50 percent. However, low as it is, it is still stratospheric by comparison with the Congress.
For five years relatively little has been accomplished by the Congress. Pundits claim from time to time that this is President Obama’s fault. “He has been unable to create a governing coalition.” Of course, that would have required that the split now opening up in the Republican party between the staunch Tea Party conservatives and the so-called “RINOs” –(Republicans in name only) of the party. It took a government shutdown and an exceedingly harsh public response to it to break open a rift between Tea Party Republicans and RINOs.
Why did the break-up take so long? Early on the RINO wing of the party was under pressure to go along with Tea Party conservatives. The Tea Party threatened to compete against RINOs if they didn’t go along with a competing candidate more to the Tea Party’s liking during the primary in their state leading to re-election. Indeed, a number of such primary challenges were mounted and some of them were successful. However, while the RINO was often replaced by the Tea Party candidate, the latter did not always win the election against the Democratic candidate. Thus, the staunchly conservative Tea Party minority in the Congress effectively blocked legislation. Many bills passed the House of Representatives but were dead on arrival in the Senate. These included about 40 attempts to block or defund the Affordable Care Act. Republicans led by Tea Party conservativesneffectively blocked most congressional action over the past five years. Yet, well-meaning members of the press would like us to believe that President Obama has been at fault for not establishing a governing coalition. One may ask, where have they been?