"Mushy, indulgent, insulated and lame"
That's Jay Rosen at Press Think talking about the scads of reporters and pundits who have have been robotically spouting this tiresome trope since election night: "Republicans must show they can govern."
Asserted as a fact of political life, “Republicans must show they can govern” is a failure of imagination, and a sentimentalism. It refuses to grapple with other equally plausible possibilities. For example: that declining to govern will produce so much confusion about lines of responsibility and alienation from a broken political system that voters can’t, won’t, or in any case don’t “punish” the people who went for obstruction. Behind a statement like Peter Foster’s: “Republicans must use the next two years to show they are a party of government…” is a prediction about price-paying that does not necessarily apply in a hyper-partisan and super-polarized era. Political journalists are supposed to know that. They are supposed to know that better than anyone else.
In raw ballot box terms, being against was successful in 2014. It could easily be successful in 2016. To declare otherwise is mushy, indulgent, insulated and lame. A reporter’s wish masquerading as an accepted fact.
You can say that again.
But I think there's another possibility, which I mentioned here. Republicans can certainly obstruct the president and the Democrats from legislatively enacting their agenda. They have been richly rewarded for doing just that and it is daft to think they won't continue to do it. They have no incentive to compromise --- they win big in mid-term elections when they don't.
But they can' also pass their own agenda with their majority and let the president veto it, thus "showing" that the can govern --- if only they have a Republican president who will work with them. I suspect we will see a lot of that activity and certainly a lot of that rhetoric over the next couple of years.
You have to admit that it makes sense. They obstruct anything the Democrats want to do. Then they pass their agenda and either they pressure the president into signing noxious crap that his own voters will hate or he vetoes it and they get their base all ginned up for 2016.
This has absolutely nothing to do with "governing", of course, since the whole point is to prove that the Democrats are incompetent and that the president is a tyrant who refuses to work with them. The only things that "get done" are those things the president does on his own and which the GOP candidates can promise to reverse immediately. (And if a Democrat wins in 2016, you can bet that the Imperial Presidency will no longer be tolerated by the conservative courts.)
Gridlock serves the Republicans well in any number of ways. But in order to have a rationale for a GOP White House, they may decide it's in their interest to "prove" that they can "get something done" if they can just get a president to help them. I doubt it matters what the "something" is --- especially to the media which, as Rosen points out, don't seem to be the slightest bit cognisant of what's really going on.