Saturday, March 23, 2013

We smell fear

Nate Silver's 538 blog reports  that Obama's edge over the Republicans on the economy has largely evaporated, as has his post-election "bump." Not too surprising for a president (and a party) who is once again playing careful on just about everything -- avoiding the open fights and risky actions. Here's the way I look at it.

1. Obama can not get enthusiastic support because he has done very little he can point to.

2. Obama has done very little he can point to because the Republicans won't let him do anything. They have the filibuster in the Senate and a House majority. He can't get appointees voted on, much less confirmed; he can't get policies and bills discussed or voted on. He looks -- and is -- weak.

3. The Republicans have a filibuster in the Senate because the Democrats are so afraid of losing in the next round of Senatorial elections that they don't dare change the filibuster rules. People (wisely) perceive this fear as a sign of weakness. When you don't even fight, you can't win.

4. Obama is still talking about bipartisanship -- can you imagine? What planet is he living on? He won't talk "class warfare" (i.e. pointing out how the rich are getting much richer with Republican support, while everyone else's incomes are flat or worse) so what leverage does he have with the vast majority of non-wealthy Americans? He still refuses to take on Big anything: banks, polluters, pharma, insurance -- you name it.

5. If Obama were truly a fighter, like FDR, he'd actually get in the ring and take a stand. He should name names (specific Republicans who are standing up for the rich and voting obstructionist) and name policies and why they are not just "bad" but "outrageous".  This, together with a gamble on the filibuster, could well improve his popularity enough to turn around some seats in the 2014 House elections. Then he could actually make some progress, which, in turn, would help his popularity.

6. We can only sympathize with a beleaguered president for so long; then we need to see him and his party take some political risks for our sake. Simply playing defense during a war of attrition is inviting defeat.

(Oh, one other thing: cutting off funding for small airports is a good political move: most of these airports are in either red states or red congressional districts, and a lot of their clientele consists of wealthy private plane owners. People like you and me don't own planes and don't, generally, fly out of small fields. Obama should also find out how to cut services, under sequester, for yacht owners.)

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