Broder looks ahead to a possible 2011

BRODER LOOKS AHEAD TO A POSSIBLE 2011…. As David Broder sees it, the White House is already preparing itself — mentally, emotionally, strategically, substantively — for expected Republican gains in the midterm elections. The columnist quoted an insider who told him, “If you asked the president what he would really like for Christmas, it would be a smart loyal opposition.”

Anyone who’s watched congressional Republicans at all since January 2009 knows how unlikely this is. Broder highlights some GOP leaders of years past — Dirksen, Dole, Baker — who “mostly opposed Democratic presidents but made common cause with them on certain national and international issues.” Though Broder doesn’t mention it, these senators came from eras when Republicans had grown-ups in leadership positions, a dynamic that has sadly disappeared.

That said, the column identifies a few areas where President Obama might be able to work with congressional Republicans, including a South Korean trade deal and the administration’s education policy, which the right does not reflexively hate. This assumes, of course, that a GOP majority would have any interest in governing at all in 2011 and 2012, which strikes me as highly unlikely.

But one Broder observation stood out.

As the problem of long-term joblessness has drawn increasing White House attention, thoughts have turned again to the need for large-scale investment in all kinds of infrastructure projects, electronic as well as physical. Obama has set staffers to searching for innovative ways to finance such projects, with some form of public-private partnership, and has asked them to invite Republicans to come forward with ideas that could significantly reduce the ranks of seemingly permanent unemployed construction workers.

It’s hard to be optimistic about this. As Digby noted, “What a great idea. I have no doubt that the Republicans are going to step up with all kinds of great ideas for this. I know, how about some tax cuts for rich people?”

There’s still a temptation among many in the political/media establishment to pretend that congressional Republicans are a credible major-party caucus capable of problem-solving, creative solutions, and bipartisan compromise. I haven’t the foggiest idea why anyone would believe such a fanciful notion.

Look at Broder’s paragraph again — there’s talk of large-scale infrastructure investment, which contemporary Republicans reject out of hand. There’s talk of public-private partnerships, which the GOP of late has found offensive. There’s talking of inviting Republicans to “come forward with ideas,” but that invitation was extended nearly two years ago, and all the GOP can offer is a combination of tax cuts and deregulation — and in several instances, Republicans haven’t even been willing to accept tax cuts.

Broder’s column makes it seem as if President Obama may still be able to get some things done working with serious, well-intentioned Republicans. I’d be more inclined to agree if I could find some serious, well-intentioned Republicans.