February 06, 2010
As Congress goes under the bus, "principles" trump triangulation!
...for those seeking a true measure of Obama's judgment, on both policy and politics, the meeting between the president and Senate Democrats yesterday was much more instructive. Obama's words made it clear that, notwithstanding his party's recent election losses at the polls and its declining poll ratings, he has no intention of embarking on a Bill Clinton-style "triangulation" strategy.This is not surprising. As I argued earlier, if Obama moves to the center now, not only would he look weak, but there's a serious risk that he might just save enough congressional seats to keep it in Democratic hands. And if that happens, the American voters (who remain center-right) would be much more inclined to vote him out in 2012.
But if OTOH, the Republicans re-take Congress in the fall, that dramatically increases Obama's chances of reelection (as the guy who would help keep in place that reassuring gridlock that American voters historically favor). Say what you want about Obama, but I think he's smart enough to realize this.
If my theory is correct, then once the Democrats lose Congress, then and only then would the Obama triangulation strategy begin in earnest. I think that any comparisons with Clinton triangulation are thus premature, and I think it should be remembered that Clinton's triangulation began after the disastrous Democratic losses in 1994 (which was the birth of the "Contract With America").
There's plenty of time for triangulation. Meanwhile, it is in Obama's best interest to have his party lose.
What's especially remarkable about this is that even as he betrays his party, he is nonetheless being praised for his "principles" -- by the very people he is screwing:
The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off [Senator Blanche] Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy. To be sure, maybe the whole thing was just kabuki -- Lincoln standing up to the president for the benefit of the folks back home who don't like him, and Obama obligingly playing his part. But it sure looked pretty spontaneous to me.He won't be the one paying it.
Truer words were never spoken.
But in general, few Democrats seem to really care about whether he's betraying his party. The important part of the White House strategy is that he be sung the praises for standing up for his principles.
For now, of course.
What I can't figure out is how many Democrats -- especially the rank and file -- have caught on to him. I suspect that in elite Democratic circles, a decision has already been made to basically throw Congress under the proverbial bus now in order to save the Obama administration later, but they don't want the ordinary people to know. Hence the sycophantic talk of "principles" -- and the meme fits the Obama as hero narrative. Plenty of Democrats will buy it. (Plus, it's red meat for the hard left base.)
And when the time comes from him to finally be "forced" to move to the center, he will have had no choice, and they can blame the Republicans.
That the Democratic elite seem to prefer having an Obama administration with a Republican Congress to a Democratic Congress with a Republican president begs the question of what people on the right might prefer.
I realize this isn't a professional poll, nor are my readers necessarily on the right, but short of Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, but I'm just wondering.... If you had to choose, how many of you might prefer an Obama presidency with a Republican Congress? Or A Republican president with a Democratic Congress?
MORE: The president's fascinating call to his fellow Democrats to "just turn off... the blogs" is making sense, especially because the advice was directed to a Democrat faced with the lose of his seat:
The president's advice came in answer to a question from Sen. Mike Bennet, D-CO, who is facing a difficult re-election fight back home and wanted to know what Democrats and Republicans can do "to fix this institution so that our democracy can actually withstand the test that we're facing right now."(Via Glenn Reynolds.) Hmmm... Does this mean all my Democratic readers are going to turn off this blog? No more Democrats reading Classical Values, by presidential edict? I'm devastated. Crushed!
And frankly, I think they're more than a little bit jealous of the rebellious Tea Party phenomenon, because they're the ones in power, which means they cannot protest, cannot, um, fight the power.
God, how they must hate seeing people on the right doing that.
posted by Eric on 02.06.10 at 02:05 PM
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