about Obama and his Bush tax cut compromise/capitulation. Like many progressives, I was angry at Obama for leading us on with his rhetoric about the unfairness of extending the upper-tier brackets and the negligible economic effect it would have on creating jobs. I also began to lose faith in his leadership; half-believing the pundits and commentators that he didn't know how to negotiate, that he got 'rolled' by the Republicans in the Senate. Even though, at the very end of his December 7 press conference, he said to reassure liberals, he was playing the long game, I still doubted the wisdom of his approach. However,with the victory on DADT and the New Start Treaty later today, Obama DID move the liberal cause forward. Who would have thunk it?
I wanted Obama to not only lead a liberal crusade against the growing wealth gap; but to act on it. To ideologically 'call out' the unfairness of supply-side economics and be willing to confront the GOP on the issue. He ended up gaving the Republicans something they REALLY wanted; a continuation of the general narrative on tax cuts that they have won with since 1978. However with the Bush tax cut compromise, he actually helped create the legislative environment where DADT repeal and the New Start treat could get passed. Bravo!
I should have reread a portion of my latest book, in which Obama's approach is both entirely predictable, and helps underdogs:
Obama has consistently resisted efforts to be ideologically pigeonholed., According to him, it is the precise instant in time (not literally, but perhaps a time period in between political eras) the U.S. is in that makes ideological warfare unproductive for progressives. He claimed that the most effective way to fight for the interests and values he believes in (which tend to be liberal and help out society’s underdogs) was to deemphasize the ideological component of public policies. As he wrote in 2006, “Ultimately … I believe any attempt to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in. I am convinced whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose.”
An atmosphere of hyper-partisanship and mean and unsophisticated political discourse serves the interests of conservatives. As Obama wrote in 2006, “A polarized electorate—or one that easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate—works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government. After all, a cynical electorate is a self-centered electorate.” A self-centered electorate is not hospitable to public policies that seek to redistribute economic resources and political power to the struggling, the suffering, the discriminated against and the people most likely to lose: the underdogs.
It is the very idea of government; that it CAN work which is a floor for progressives. Without this floor, how can one legitimize government action on behalf of the less powerful? The majority will turn away from progressive policies because they will have seen nothing come from it. Just rhetoric. Obama's compromise enticed the Party of No to participate in governing. This makes the very idea of government more palatable to many Americans (yes, Independents) and helps out the LONG TERM strategy of progressives.
Obama consistently finishes the games he plays very strongly. The Obituary of Health Care Reform was written many times. He finishes strong again.
Update: Thanks to all who have responded so far. First, let me say that I have read Daily Kos almost every day for probably four years. It's just that I don't blog much on the site. Second, on some of the substantive points...I am too very worried and disturbed about the growing wealth gap...and the fact that the extension of the Bush tax cuts does nothing to close that. It even makes it worse. However the key, in my view, is to keep pressuring Obama to reform, but not lose sight of the context; the ideological reality of the USA, the severe employment crisis we are in, and the GOP takeover of the House...
I don't disagree with many of the comments made here; it's just important to remember context and recent past (remember George Bush?). On health care, he did finish great...by actually getting it passed. That doesn't mean that it necessarily needed to be as difficult as it turned out to be...
People care about competence in their government. Ideology is critical, absolutely. It is a matter of balance.