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der Tagesspiegel, Germany

America’s Republicans Have Started
Coming to Their Senses

By Christoph von Marschall

Translated By Ron Argentati

30 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Germany - der Tagesspiegel - Original Article (German)

The Republicans suddenly seem to want to cooperate with President Obama. They have to — otherwise they will never win another national election.

The last U.S. election has now been history for nearly three months, but the confrontations of the campaign continue as if the voters had never made their wishes known to the two parties. This is mainly due to the Republicans. When they could not stop Obama's reelection, they threatened to use their majority in the House of Representatives to block everything he proposed — from passing a budget to the Senate rejecting his cabinet selections to his limitations on guns and immigration reforms.

But reason seems to have won out — or at least a reasonable calculation of power did. In several areas, Republicans are signaling a shift toward limited cooperation.

Leading Republicans began distancing themselves from the threat of defeat in raising the debt ceiling by any means possible. The House extended the current debt limit by three months, giving Obama a 90-day delay during which he can take on new debt in order to pay current accounts. The hearings to approve John Kerry as secretary of state proceeded respectfully; he is assured a smooth approval by the Senate. On Monday, a bipartisan immigration reform plan will be introduced, a welcome prelude to Obama's Tuesday appearance in Nevada where he can show Latino voters that he has fulfilled their wishes.

The parties are no closer to agreement on everything but both sides now realize that ongoing stalemate does political damage to both sides. The people are demanding pragmatic solutions; even core voters on both sides understand that concessions will be necessary despite party ideologies.

For Obama, it's about his place in the history books. His first term offered a good foundation: stopping the recession, passing health care and financial market reforms, strengthening gay rights, ending the Iraq war and appointing two Supreme Court justices. It should continue in that direction. Four years of inaction will reduce the balance.

The Republicans have to open their ranks to Latinos, gays and the young if they want to win national elections in the future. Immigrants from south of the border are already the fastest growing minority. In their attitudes, they are basically conservative but when Republicans seem to them to be anti-immigration they switch over to the Democratic side. George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Latino vote, while Mitt Romney drew just 27 percent. That's why the Republicans are now suddenly in favor of immigration reform.

Basic ideological differences of course remain and are likely to surface again in March when the debate on government cuts begins: How much will defense spending be cut? How much in social programs? The old blockade mentality could quickly become business as usual once again. It's up to the leaders of both parties to intelligently use tactical compromise to build an atmosphere of trust that will withstand the next crisis.



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