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Happy Civic Holiday… and why Obama did the deal he did.

To all of you in Canada who get this first Monday off, whether it’s called Civic Holiday or whatever, all the best to you. As for politics on this day, attention has turned to our US neighbour’s attempts to get their debt ceiling agreement in place before they default tomorrow. A tentative deal has been reached, which still has to be voted on and passed, but many progressives and liberals – both in the US and here in Canada -  are dismayed at the Democrats and President Obama’s unwillingness to force the Republicans to compromise more in the agreement.  They view it as a sellout of Democratic and progressive/liberal party principles.

There are a couple of reasons that President Obama and the Democrats signed off on this – 1) there are many in the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party who would have been perfectly happy to see the US go into default, and too bad for the consequences. They believe anything to defeat Obama is okay – in otherwards, the ends justifies the means. There are also folks in this movement that feel ANY spending by the US government is too much. Indeed, there is still some question as to whether there will be mass scale defections from the Republican Party in voting for this today, because of that.

President Obama and the Democrats were not willing to allow the US to go into default, so they were willing to bend over backwards to allow the Republicans to be able to give their members something to vote for – which is good for the US as a country (and the world for that matter) but not so good for Democratic Party strategy. You might find that dismaying, but I can see the reasoning. One faction of one political  side was willing to drive the country over a cliff, the other side was not.

Political calculation on Obama’s and the Democratic leadership part on the US public’s views also does enter it. One problem for the Democratic Party and Obama is shown by this Gallup poll:

Americans’ political ideology at the midyear point of 2011 looks similar to 2009 and 2010, with 41% self-identifying as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 21% as liberal…If this pattern continues, 2011 will be the third straight year that conservatives significantly outnumber moderates — the next largest ideological bloc. By 44% to 35%, more independents are moderate than conservative — with the percentage conservative continuing to be a notch higher than it was from 2000 to 2008. Another 20% are liberal, similar to the national average. Conservatism among independents increased fairly sharply in 2009, from 30% to 35%, largely explaining the expansion of conservatism nationally at that time, and it has held at that level since then.

That trend leads to this type of political calculation:

Liberals are likely to be deeply unhappy about the nature of the deal, which includes no increases in taxes or revenue. But remember that Obama’s target constituency in 2012 is not his base but rather independent and moderate voters. And those fence-sitters love compromise in almost any form.

You can argue that Obama and the Democratic Congressional Leaders are not arguing hard enough to sway people to believe a more progressive point of view would work in this case, and you won’t get an argument from me on that one; I find the wimpishness of the Democrats no longer very surprising. That said, if the progressive wing of the Democratic Party thinks they can do a better job of providing those arguments effectively, the only way they’ll be able to do that is either if they break away from the Democratic Party and form their own “Progressive” Party, or find a way to become the majority of views in their own party at the leadership level. At this point however, I doubt many will do the former option, for fear of splitting the vote and handing the next elections to the Republicans by default. The latter option the Progressive wing has tried to work on, but with limited success. They may have to grin and bear the best of a bad situation until after the 2012 elections to then see if they are in a better position to get their own party (presuming they’re still in power) to listen to them more.


1 comment to Happy Civic Holiday… and why Obama did the deal he did.

  • Roll Tide

    Well said from the liberal side.
    Watching the whole process Obama seemed lost, had no direction, no plan. He is indeed a man in way over his head.

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