President Barack Obama said the power of conservative opposition, including in the media, is blocking his agenda in an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman late last week.
“What you’ve seen with our politics, partly because of gerrymandering, partly because of the Balkanization of media so people just watch what reinforces their deepest biases, partly because of big money in politics, is increasingly politicians are rewarded for taking the most extreme, maximalist positions,” Obama told the liberal Times columnist. “Sooner or later, that catches up with you. You end up not being able to move forward on things we need to move forward on. We need to reform our immigration system. That would be good not just for our domestic economy but for our position in the world. You travel around Latin America–nothing would more reinforce an admiration for the United States than us doing that. We need to rebuild our infrastructure. You go to the Singapore airport and then you come back to one of our airports and you say, huh? We’re not acting like a superpower.”
“It’s like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones,” Friedman agreed.
“Exactly,” Obama concurred. “We need to revamp our education system, K-12 in particular. You look at what Finland’s doing with its kids, and you look at what we’re doing with our kids, and you say, ‘we’re falling short.’ All these things are doable. Our fiscal position, actually, now is such–you know, the deficit’s been cut by more than half–where we’re in a position to make some smart investments that have huge payoffs, that historically have not been controversial, historically have garnered bipartisan support. But because of this maximalist ideological position, we’ve been blocked. I have to say here, I’ve been speaking in generalities, and trying not to be too political, but that ideological extremism and maximalist position is much more prominent right now in the Republican Party than the Democrats. Democrats have problems, but overall if you look at the Democratic consensus, it’s a pretty commonsense, mainstream consensus. It’s not a lot of wacky ideological nonsense, the way it is generally fact-based and reason-based. We’re not denying science, we’re not denying climate change, we’re not pretending that somehow having a whole bunch of uninsured people is the American way. We’re doing things that are pretty sensible. I’m optimistic that these things go in cycles, and that the Republican Party will eventually free itself from the grip of this kind of extremist ideology. But it’s necessary to happen soon.”
Given some of the policy issues he lists, especially immigration, Obama seems to be referring to the Tea Party in his comments about a faction in the GOP that has “blocked” his agenda by taking “extreme, maximalist positions.” Another way of looking at his remarks is a testament to the strength of the grassroots movement’s power.
The first example he cited, immigration policy, has been a fertile ground for fighting between the establishment of the GOP and the base over the past year and a half since president won re-election– infighting the president and his allies on the political left stoked since November 2012. Just recently, in the waning days of Congress before the August session, Speaker John Boehner fell short of the votes necessary to pass an original supplemental appropriations package to deal with the border crisis. Boehner and his leadership allies turned to conservatives rather than to Democrats to hammer out a new deal that would pass the House. The new deal took a hard line against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty for illegal alien minors and barred him from continuing the program or expanding it to more illegal aliens should he follow through on the threats he’s been making to grant–via executive order–amnesty to five to six million more illegal aliens.
Obama is hardly the only person to credit his agenda being “blocked” to the efforts of grassroots conservatives throughout America and new media’s role in shaping that.
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), arguably the intellectual leader of the movement against amnesty in Congress, made the same points in an interview with Breitbart News last week–though he was much more favorable to the developments in the political landscape than the President.
“I don’t have any doubt that the new media organizations shifted the momentum as we were heading into this August recess,” Sessions said. “There’s just no doubt about it. I guess it goes back to the Virginia seat, the influence it had there; then it built in the weeks to come and provided the only real source of consistently good information. The reason I think that the message was so strong in the House in the final hours was because it was based on almost indisputable logic and sound principle.”
Sessions is calling on Americans to pressure every U.S. senator–especially the Democrats–to publicly state whether or not they support the President’s planned executive amnesty for millions more illegal aliens. He said during that interview that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the “palace guard” for Obama’s agenda and that the grassroots activists and new media should focus on the Senate Democrats’ apparent unwillingness to stand up to the President when it comes to a lawless immigration system.
“This is a defining issue of our time,” Sessions said. “History books will write how much power President Obama grabbed and exercised if he’s not stopped and he goes through with this plan. So it’s a matter of constitutional order as well as a matter of important public policy. Just imagine if six million more people are legalized, how will anybody be deported? How will anybody be deterred from coming to the country unlawfully? It will amount to the collapse of law enforcement. I think the Senate has to confront this–and the American people need to know why is it that Harry Reid has been blocking votes. It has nothing to do with time. We spent days negotiating it to try to get a vote when we could have cast 20 votes. The reason is, he does not want his members to have to cast votes because it will expose their position. They’re saying things in their states that are different than what they’re voting for in the Senate–or avoiding voting for.”