The Democrats force a losing vote and the backlash from the Republicans’ obstruction is of more political importance than the loss of the vote. In this case, it may simply cost the Republicans a hunk of good will and then happen anyway.
Why wasn’t this ever done before? If people think they have something and then it is taken away, people don’t like it. Turning around and saying, oh, sorry it had a majority and everything, but these Republicans get to control everything.
The last week has been bad for the Republicans. First, the mere announcement of a deal shattered the illusion that they were now running the show—a sentiment prevalent among their base. Worse is the fact that the Republicans ignored their base in cutting this deal, and made it clear that their #1 priority was the rich, only had to make the Teabaggers feel like whores who just got dumped in the cheap hotel. The Tea Party was supposed to repeal the health care bill, not make the Bush tax cuts permanent!
The fact that it includes socialism like unemployment insurance only makes it worse.
And now, on top of that, the Senate leadership is forcing the Republicans to take votes that reveal that they aren’t there to work together to make things work better by checking Obama’s work, but to force a show down for their right-wing agenda.
Obama may alienated have a few bloggers, but he did not actually damage himself with his base, as his approval ratings among self-described liberals and Democrats attests. But the Republicans just did great damage to the “enthusiasm” they won the last election on.
Americans hoping instead for bi-partisan compromise now look to Obama and can relate to his very frustration: the right is only interested in the right, the left is only interested in the left, and the President is the only one paying attention to the deadlines in their lives, the consequences of an extra $100 or so every month in planning next year’s budget and the disaster losing an unemployment check or, due to the failure to pass middle-class tax cuts, their paychecks were actually reduced!
The voters didn’t think the Democrats were paying attention to their problems. They thought the Republicans would force them to. Obama seemed to get the message. The other two just continued off in their own separate worlds. In a sense, it’s more ingenious than Clinton’s triangulation, because it forces both parties to barter with him for the measures they will need to look sane and responsible while they meanwhile jockey for their own ideological advances—even ones that are DOA, like health care repeal.
I predict that Obama’s numbers will inch up the rest of this month as the lame duck session comes to a close, and he will have a chance to build momentum with the State of the Union speech, when he’ll be able to mention to people that he fought for that extra benjamin in their paychecks.
All he had to do was abandon the Hoovernomics fever that had swept his administration since the GOP managed to bamboozle people into conflating the Bush bank bailout and Obama’s stimulus bill. People think they disapproved of the stimulus, so instead of working to clarify the messaging, Obama internalized this misinformation and focused on austerity like tax increases, balanced budgets, and massive cuts.
This mistake, as many commentators pointed out, was the same one that Roosevelt made in 1936, and though Obama lost more seats in Congress, he did more things wrong than FDR. He let HAMP turn into an additional layer of predatory lending—letting people cut down their mortgages in bankruptcy would have been the easiest solution and the best solution for, you know, people who vote. He isn’t explaining what the fuck we are still doing in Afghanistan if we aren’t going to bag Bin Laden (he could simply explain we need to keep a thumb on the region of the only Islamic bomb in Pakistan, and the putative second Islamic nuclear power in Iran, but he doesn’t do that). He never really got out and pushed on the Wall Street bill, which only reinforced the meme about the stimulus that it was all part of the banker buddy system Obama shared with Bush.
All of this vagueness recalls his lack of leadership on the healthcare bill. He was still acting, more or less, like just another senator instead of the man with the plan.
And he seemed to be on this same self-immolating course as recently as last week when he announced a pay freeze on federal workers, as if he was pledging to a fraternity and needed to go in public and do something strange and humiliating to his friends for the frat boys to giggle to.
But then he announced his deal, this huge deficit spending, Keynesian lame duck surprise that—wait for it—is actually larger than the original stimulus.
The right wing is freaking out at this the way the left freaked out over Bush escalating the war in Iraq after the media declared the 2006 election about a rejection of Bush’s policies in Iraq. Bullshit. The 2006 election was about the gargantuan buyer’s remorse the public had about all aspects of the disastrous Bush presidency. He had lost his public mandate to take any action unilaterally, and the conventional wisdom that Bush should have been shamed into not doing something he unquestionably had the power and the desire to do was not only defied, but told to fuck itself.
Even if you argue that 2010 intended to send the same message, Obama only complied: he worked with the Republicans. In reality, it was a message that Obama wasn’t paying enough attention to fixing the Bush years, which is why the atmospherics of refusing to investigate or prosecute Bush administration crimes, even if more or less frivolous and of far less import than the justice left believes, was bad. It was asking: why are you spending a whole year doing healthcare when we’re going broke. (Simple answer would have been: this is the #1 reason for your economic insecurity, but they didn’t even really try that.)
Hopefully this means that the austerity hawks have been told to pack their shit.