More On The End Of The PPUS

Nate Silver writes:

A more robust interpretation/criticism of Obama's "bipartisan" positioning is that he is playing a game he knows he can't lose. . . as [Mark] Schmitt suggested more than a year ago, Obama may have known full well that Republicans weren't about to seek compromise, nor would it necessarily have been politically advantageous for them to do so. If partisan squabbling is inevitable, it is useful to have pre-positioned oneself in advance as its victim rather than its instigator.

. . . What I don't think Obama can be accused of, however, is breaking any promises. . .

That pretty clearly is false with regard to policy (if not "politics" which is what Silver is talking about.) To back my assertions, let me cite . . . Nate Silver:

Obama has angered the left on a number of issues ranging from . . . his position on state secrets [which was presaged by his broken promise on FISA during the campaign.] Obama has also come in for some liberal fire for his purported lack of urgency on issues like the Employee Free Choice Act and repealing the ban on openly gay troops in the military.

When Mark Schmitt wrote his 2007 theory of change piece, I thought the real weakness in Obama's campaign approach was that it would not lead to a mandate for progressive policies. That concern was mooted by the economic and financial crisis. Even today, President Obama has a large amount of running room on most every policy you can imagine. He has a mandate to "fix it," anyway he thinks he can.

So far, President Obama has not been bold about "fixing" policy regarding the economy and the financial crisis. He has not been bold regarding "fixing" the state security apparatus. In terms of other policies less important (and in some cases, where I hold views opposed to those held by most progressives) to me but quite important to many, if not most progressives (EFCA, gay rights, trade policy, Cuba policy), Obama has basically sat out the discussion.

On health care and energy policy, President Obama appears to be quite active and ambitious, even bold. On foreign policy, he has been just about perfect imo.

What's really interesting about the "post partisan unity schtick" is how quickly it has become irrelevant. Silver writes:

The object of the game, moreover, is not really to appeal to Republican voters, whose numbers are too scarce to make them politically relevant. Rather, it is to put on a good show for moderates and independents, in the hopes of placing sufficient pressure on moderate Democrats like Evan Bayh and moderate Republicans like Susan Collins to back the Administration's agenda.

I think that game is pretty much over. We are back to the game we all remember - a President using the usual tools to get his agenda enacted. "Moderates and independents" will judge the results of Obama's policy, not whether he "reached out."

Frankly, I am relieved that the triumph of the Broderite "post partisan unity schtick" was shortlived. It seems clear to me that President Obama and his team know that it was good for Obama in 2008, but it is pretty irrelevant going forward. I think they are getting some important policy questions wrong, but I can not attribute these errors to wrongheaded attempts to achieve "post-partisanship." They are just wrong on those policies.

Speaking for me only

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    He's free to do many of the things... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Salo on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 08:22:12 AM EST
    ...that his most radical supporters were wishing for independently of his own campaign.  I can only conclude that he's really a centrist who really really likes the way the system works and he had a great number of decent lefties fooled. At least he's not a complete jerk like Bush--a small mercy.

    If Obama is a centrist by current standards... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Romberry on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 09:22:38 AM EST
    ...what does that really mean? Back in January of 2002, Paul Krugman wrote what I thought was a very important op-ed, America the Polarized. From that op-ed:
    (T)he center did not hold. Ralph Nader may sneer at ''Republicrats,'' but Democrats and Republicans have diverged sharply since the 1980's, and are now further apart on economic issues than they have been since the early 20th century.

    Whose position changed? Tom Daschle doesn't seem markedly more liberal than, say, the late Tip O'Neill. On the other hand, Tom DeLay, who will soon be House majority leader, is clearly to the right of previous Republican leaders.

    What passes for the center these days would have been considered fairly extreme conservatism in the 1960's, 1970's and, to some extent, likely even in the 80's right through Reagan's term of office.

    So...if Obama is a centrist by current standards, what does it really mean?

    My own dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party as a whole has been due to their rightward drift. For years I kept expecting elected Democrats to fight back on behalf of the common people. I don't expect that so much any more, largely because "centrist" on the current political scale is the equivalent of far right Republican during my youth. And what counts as the "radical left" today? Much of that used to be the center.

    How far have things shifted? Check out this article from Slate in 2001, A Health Care Bill Fantasy. Excerpt:

    If Sens. Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy ascended to liberal heaven and Saint Peter told them they could write up any health-care bill that they wanted, what would they ask for? Well, they might require businesses to pay three-quarters of the cost of health insurance for their workers. They might require the policies to cover not only doctor and hospital bills but lab work, mental health treatment, birth control, nursing home care--pretty much you name it. The federal government could fund the same health-care benefits to those not covered by employers or Medicare. . . . To eliminate the burden of filling out forms and filing claims, the feds could provide one and all with an official "health card," much like a bank credit card, that would be honored on sight by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and labs...

    Best of all, the two senators wouldn't have to draft this fantasy bill themselves! That's because the plan I just described was already drafted and sent to Capitol Hill by a Republican administration whose members included someone named Dick Cheney, someone named Donald Rumsfeld, and someone named Paul O'Neill; and the Republican Party chairman was someone named George Bush.

    That's right. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul O'Neil drafted that legislation...while Nixon was in office. The center? It did not hold. So today's centrist in America is yesterday's what?

    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by jbindc on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 08:55:52 AM EST
    Nate Silver says:

    The object of the game, moreover, is not really to appeal to Republican voters, whose numbers are too scarce to make them politically relevant

    60 + million people are not "politically relevant"? Hmmmm....guess Nate needs to go back to math class.

    Are Republicans down and in a funk right now?  Yes.  Does that mean all these people are going to permanently cede government and curl up in a ball and die?  I don't think so, especially if history is any indicator.  The pendulum always swings one way and then back again.  Dems are in power for now, but it won't be a permanent majority.  It will swing back in a couple of elections, so I think it is dangerous for people to have this smug attitude like Silver has.

    Obama has til Nov 2010 to accomplish (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by tokin librul on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 09:12:33 AM EST
    something BIG.

    He's gotta roll back at least one, and preferrably more, of the major Bushevik clusterfux, before the end of the '10 cycle.

    If he doesn't/can't, he's a one-termer (which I think was the Bosses' plan all along).

    But that's prob'ly just smug, ol' cynical me, hunh?

    while I agree that the "bosses" (none / 0) (#5)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:25:05 AM EST
    may have/had a plan I am starting to suspect that Obama had one of his own all along.
    and now he is driving.

    He's the vetted, approved CorpoRat (none / 0) (#6)
    by tokin librul on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 12:18:39 PM EST
    President...why do you suppose his agenda is any different from that of the Owners???

    Two terms (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Cream City on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 01:38:27 PM EST
    may not be their agenda.  

    I agree... (none / 0) (#9)
    by tokin librul on Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 08:36:00 AM EST
    I think the Owners have him down for a single-term: just long enough to fail abysmally to fix any of the problems the Busheviks left behind, distract from the reponsibility of the fascists for the general state of things, and prepare the way for the next generation of Pukes...

    One term? You betcha!


    Well (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 12:48:46 PM EST
    I disagree that Obama has a mandate to fix the problems anyway that the can. He doesn't have a policy mandate any further than "not Bush" and so far he doesn't really seem to realize that he has even that. You can't "community organize" the government to do the work for you. You have to lead.