New Political Landscape 2011

If you plan on interning in D.C. this summer expect the political atmosphere to be ramped up even more than now. With the Presidential election of 2012 just around the corner every politician, campaign consultant, lobbyist, journalist, pundit, and policy maker will be shifting into campaign mode. It will be an exciting time to be in our nation’s capital. The energy and enthusiasm will be palpable and for young people looking for experience and the opportunity to witness history in the making, D.C. is the place to be! See some thoughts below on the new political landscape.

THE NEW ORDER

To say that the political landscape in D.C. has changed is probably the understatement of the year. With the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives, Americans are getting a get a taste of divided government for the first time in quite awhile. With a diminished majority in the Senate, Democrats are adjusting to the new reality while the Obama administration seems to be playing a duel strategy of appearing to be bipartisan while laying the groundwork for re-election in 2012 by preparing their case against the GOP.

Back to the Battle Lines

Much of the good will engendered by the tragic shooting in Tucson seems to be dissipating and the Kumbaya seating arrangements at last week’s State of the Union speech will soon be a distant memory. The rallying cry to return to good ol’ trench warfare was made easier when another federal judge ruled that Obamacare was unconstitutional. This ruling gives Republicans fresh ammunition and renewed courage to fight what they see as the largest expansion of government power since the days of FDR. President Obama and Senator Harry Reid will of course fight to keep the Health Care Bill intact hoping to use Republican opposition to the bill as a political sledge hammer, painting the GOP as heartless – who gives a damn about the uninsured – troglodytes. While pummeling each other, both sides will have to at least appear to be trying to “get things done” or “working in a spirit of bi-partisanship.” BTW – For all you incoming interns, don’t be disheartened by the lack (or perceived lack) of incivility of the partisan rhetoric. Democracy is messy and not always pretty. Check out the newspapers of Washington and Jefferson’s time – now that was nasty stuff!

How does that Tea taste now?

Another interesting area to watch: the new Congressional members, particularly those who self identify as Tea Party members. Voters who uphold the Tea Party banner will be watching the new members for any sign that they’ve been corrupted by “the establishment” or have begun to drink the DC Kool-Aid. The age old dilemma between pragmatism and idealism will be on full display in the coming months. According to Shane D’Aprile of The Hill newspaper, The House Tea Party Caucus, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), will hold its first meeting of the 112th Congress on Feb. 17.  The upcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling will be on the top of the agenda. Debate over raising the debt ceiling is likely to be a bone of contention among Republicans.

All Eyes on Egypt &Arab World

While events in Egypt are changing by the hour, one thing is for certain. Transformation in the Arab world is taking place on a grand scale and the entire geo-political world order and the foreign policy establishment is being upended. These are tide of history sweeping events and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are being called upon and will be called upon to adjust to the many new and unknown realities. While foreign policy often takes a back seat to domestic concerns in the U.S. that is certainly not the case now.

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