As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holding What Line?

The word from President Obama's big go to China conference with House Republicans is that he "won't compromise" on tax cuts in the stimulus package.

President Barack Obama rolled into the Capitol with a clear message for Republicans Tuesday afternoon: He’s happy to talk, but he’s not compromising on tax cuts.

Obama was ready for the House Republicans to pounce, telling them: "Feel free to whack me over the head because I probably will not compromise on that part [tax cuts],” according to two sources in the room.

One conservative House Republican who attended the hour-long closed door session was asked if Obama was winning any votes: "Nope. He said he won't compromise on more tax cuts. All form - not substance."

Lord knows we haven't suffered through form without substance the past 8 years, right? But there's something funny here. Republicans are talking about Obama not "compromising" on tax cuts in the bill without mentioning the $275 billion in tax cuts THAT ARE ALREADY IN THERE, including corporate breaks designed to garner GOP support. Obama isn't compromising MORE on the bill; it already reached the House pre-compromised.

And meanwhile, GOP oppo researchers are a-huntin' for more poison pills they can create outrage with and force out of the bill without any concurrent show of support for the final package. They're just chipping away because they can, and because Obama has responded to this stimuli in the past.

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that ACORN, the low-income advocacy group under investigation for voter registration fraud, could be eligible for billions in aid from the economic stimulus proposal working its way through the House.

House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement over the weekend noting that the stimulus bill wending its way through Congress provides $4.19 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities."

What I think is going on is that Obama really craves approval from elites. The desire for bipartisanship is an elite hobby-horse, and Obama is riding it. When elites got nervous about all that "funding for contraceptive" bullshit, Obama got it taken out of the bill. He's trying to stay above the fray and triangulating between progressives and conservatives, ending up with an ineffective bill that won't do all it can for an economic revival. And Republicans are very cleverly using his rhetoric of bipartisanship against him, to extract concessions without any return of support.

Obama ought to read every single word of this article by his former employee Mike Lux. Here's a taste:

At the end of the day, the progressive things Obama wants to do will be strongly opposed by the vast majority of Republicans. Rebuilding the economy from the bottom up, fundamentally reforming healthcare so all Americans can get reasonably priced coverage, transforming the energy economy so that we save ourselves from the worst consequences of global warming, allowing unions a fair shot at organizing, and many of the other things Obama wants to do will all be opposed by 90%+ of the Republican party and conservative movement. We already see it in the reaction from Boehner and McConnell and all of the conservative columnists Obama had dinner with the other night to his economic recovery package, even though Obama has made it smaller and put more tax cuts into it than most progressives think make sense. Making the substantive changes that actually make all of the above policy goals possible will require rejecting conservative ideas and going forward boldly where they can't follow. Key to actually achieving real healthcare reform, for example, is giving all Americans the option of joining the same public plan members of Congress get, but including that option will lose you most Republican votes. Making the massive public investments in transforming out energy economy will never be supported by most Republicans, nor will placing a tight cap on carbon emissions that isn't chock full of loopholes. 95% of Republicans will violently oppose any easing of union organizing rules. Reaching out to conservative Republicans symbolically, personally, and rhetorically can strengthen Obama for the tough political battles ahead, as long as he understands that to get the important things done that we need to achieve, they will still oppose you on virtually everything that really matters [...]

In The Progressive Revolution, I quote nineteenth century abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass' great speech where he says:

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get."

Truer words were never spoken. What history shows is that nothing important was ever done; no big change was ever made, without a knock-down, drag-out fight between progressives and conservatives. Our ideas and attitudes and fundamental philosophies are just too different. One side or another gains the upper-hand politically for a while, but neither side ever gives up or goes away, and the conservatives won't this time either. We need to strike while the iron is hot, and fight like crazy to make the big changes while we can, because we will fail if we don't understand that we are still, as always, in a war of ideas.

Exactly. And the result of that struggle has to work for everyday people, or Obama will be booted out on his ass in four years, and no promises he makes will change that.

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