No it isn’t April 1st and no that wasn’t an Onion headline you thought you saw, the United States Congress or more specifically the Senate actually managed to pass some legislation… consecutively! Rejoice all ye faithful, Santa (or is it Jesus?) has delivered a Christmas miracle. On the heels of his much maligned ‘tax cut compromise’ bill, Obama managed to push through ratification of the START treaty, the passage of the 9/11 responders healthcare bill, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell just before the holidays. Many have hailed these achievements as the heralds of a new era of compromise in American politics, but this flies in the face of the facts.

While Obama’s tax cut compromise was widely viewed on both the right and left as a failure (at least initially), they don’t appreciate the delicate position President Obama found himself in. After receiving a whipping in the mid-term elections, Obama was facing a congressional session in 2011 that was shifted sharply to the right and filled with new and uncompromising faces. Republicans were threatening to filibuster all bills until the full extension of the Bush tax cuts were passed. They argued the filibuster was warranted due to the intense distress that would befall the economy if the cuts weren’t extended. Facing this kind of opposition, Obama got a far better deal than he ever got on healthcare, even if he added significant amounts to the national debt. For a President these days, that doesn’t even make the back pages. Furthermore, it opened the Senate up to new legislation before the end of the ‘lame-duck’ session.

Republican opposition to the START treaty was somewhat baffling and seemed to come from their general unwillingness to work with President Obama on anything. Republicans said they wanted ‘more time’ to consider the treaty. Those few republicans who publically cited specific problems with the treaty were concerned with provisions that would in their mind hamper American efforts at constructing a missile shield. This, despite assurances from the President that this was not the case and also with the knowledge that at worst development of a comprehensive missile shield would lead to Russia pulling out of the treaty. In the meantime, the treaty allows for inspections of Russian nuclear facilities to begin after the previous treaty expired, one year ago. However, a push from Democrats and elder Republican statesmen like General Brent Snowcroft (ret.), led to the treaty’s passage.

If Republican opposition to the START treaty was baffling, their opposition to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was something beyond mindboggling. Republicans like John McCain, who had long been an advocate for gay rights, had begun to abruptly shift their tunes beginning in 2008 and made vague statements that essentially passed on the decision to the military brass. However, statements from figures like the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen that it was time for the law’s repeal were ignored in an election season dominated by the tea party. Obama’s passage of the repeal is a historical landmark and will go some way in appeasing his liberal base, alienated by previous compromises on healthcare and tax cuts.

The fact that the 9/11 responders healthcare bill had to be even debated was probably the single biggest sign that something is extremely wrong in American politics today. The bill closed a corporate tax loophole and used the money saved to fund healthcare for those afflicted by serious health problems relating to injuries/illnesses sustained while working at ground zero. Unlike the other bills, the passage of this piece of legislation can be linked to a media push in the last few days at Fox News, MSNBC, and even the Daily Show. A trifecta not likely to be seen again! Jon Stewart began talking about the bill and the ludicrous fact that Republicans were even filibustering it on December 16th. He would even devote almost an entire episode showcasing the issue with actual 9/11 responders arguing for its passage. Rachel Maddow at MSNBC also made a concerted effort to bring the issue to light. However, in a world where nothing is real unless you saw it on TV and ratings are king, it can be argued that no one did more to expose the issue than Sheppard Smith at Fox News. Smith asked Senators “how they could sleep at night” and called out specific Senators such as Tom Coburn who were stalling its passage.

Maddow even praised Smith for his effusive coverage of the issue.

Republicans and Democrats working together to pass laws? MSNBC extending an olive branch to Fox News? Are these signs of the end times or is there really a shift in the tone and hyper-partisanship of American politics? Alas, recent events to the contrary, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for a shift in anything. Republicans like Laura Ingraham and Dick Morris were quick to condemn Republicans for supporting the bills and even railed against the tax cut compromise as a capitulation. Why, they argued, should Republicans have to compromise after they just took over the House and picked up so many seats in the Senate? And their attitude is shared by many of the new Republican congressmen and the influential tea party. If the passage of these four landmark pieces of legislation is a Christmas miracle, it looks like it’s going to be a long and cold winter.