The president has become persona non grata to the far-left -- the feeling may be mutual.
So much for the post-partisan presidency. Not that there was any chance that it would actually happen anyway. It would have taken a modern-day Solomon to bridge the ideological divide in America today and no one would confuse Barack Obama with the Biblical King. From the beginning of his term, Obama’s idea of bipartisanship more closely resembled a mob racket than any kind of nuanced balancing of political and public interests. From the stimulus through government bailouts, from health care through trials for terrorists, the administration’s message has been unmistakably clear: we’ll all get along fine, so long as you do exactly as Nancy, Harry and I say. The administration thus alienated Republicans early and often and, as the 2010 election so amply demonstrated, millions upon millions of Americans as well. Now, the furor over the president’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to everyone has turned another faction against him: Obama’s base on the far-left views the president’s tax-extension proposal as “proof” that Obama is in fact a money-grubbing Republican disguised progressive clothing.
Bob Tyrrell coined the phrase “conservative crack up” when things started to fall apart on the Right after the Reagan years. The current episode may well signal a repeat of the phenomenon on the Left. The far-left and the elected officials representing progressives, like Speaker Pelosi, are rushing to put as much distance between themselves and Obama’s heretical proposal as possible. Centerist Democrats, like centrist Republicans, are willing to go along with a “framework” that neither group believes is perfect, but that each believes is necessary if we’re to avoid an even deeper recession. The right-wing of the Republican party isn’t at all sure that it’s willing to swallow the bitter pill of additional spending that goes along with the tax cut extension in Obama’s proposal, but the jury is still out as to whether hard-core conservatives will vote against the deal or not. At the end of the day, my guess is that conservatives will hold out as long as they can for as much as they can, before joining the center of both parties to ensure that tax rates remain stable for everyone over the next two years.
While the Obama administration is not the first post-partisan presidency since George Washington, it is certainly the first post-ironic presidency. Obama’s entire economic demagoguery was based on the contention that the Bush tax cuts ruined the economy – a fantasy that corresponded directly with the delusions of his leftist base. So what does the president propose to do to keep the economy from tanking even further than he’s torpedoed it thus far? Extend the Bush tax cuts. The cognitive dissonance on the Left must be shattering – either they were terribly wrong about economics all along, or Obama wasn’t the Chosen One they’d imagined him to be from the start. Actually, both are true, but their disillusionment is spectacular to behold.
Consider a few comments posted on the Daily Kos, the site that is always a harbinger of far-leftist opinion, shortly after the president announced his willingness to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all. “I’m just going to accept the fact that I was had and that Obama is in fact a Republican,” one commenter moaned. “Then I am going to move on. I am going to expect nothing at all from Washington and work very hard to elect progressive Democrats locally. I’m just going to start all over from the bottom up. Oh, and this. I will NEVER, EVER, EVER again give time or a dime or a vote to a blue dog Democrat. That includes the President.” Another complained about Obama’s defection in terms that could have been plucked from a McCain-Palin ad in 2008: “During the election, a Brit asked me: ‘What do we really know about this Obama character? Isn’t it a bit risky to choose a President with no experience?’ At the time, I responded as you might expect. ‘Saying all the right things’, ‘Energizing the country’, etc, etc. Crap, I should have listened to the guy. Obama turned out to be nothing but a suit with a great speech writer.” Finally we have this bit of sarcasm from a Daily Kosite who believes that allowing people to keep more of the money they’ve earned is morally equivalent to highway robbery: “The rich need our money more then (sic) we do, because they are better people. Obama knows this and doesn’t flinch from doing the hard things – like taking our money and giving it to the rich.”
If Barack Obama isn’t far enough left for the far-left, the far-left has nowhere to go. As painful as it may be for the president to knowingly alienate his loyal base, the alternative is far more painful. If the economy tanks any further, Obama has zero chance of getting re-elected in 2012 and he knows it. Extending the hated tax cuts are a vital measure towards fueling a recovery, and you don’t have to go any further than the president’s chief economic advisor Larry Summers to understand the truth of that statement. Here’s what Summers had to say about extending the Bush-era tax cuts, from the AP story:
[I]f the measure isn’t passed soon, it will ‘materially increase the risk the economy would stall out and we would have a double-dip’ recession. That put the White House in the unusual position of warning its own party’s lawmakers they could be to blame for calamitous consequences if they go against the president.
The far-left, which is so committed to the idea that redistributing wealth is the cure for all that ails us, won’t pay any more attention to Summers than it has to the president. On the other hand, hardcore conservatives understand that the president’s economic guru speaks the truth. They can be expected to struggle mightily to reduce the spending elements contained within Obama’s compromise measure: the extension of unemployment benefits and spending more on stimulus measures. Yet, when push comes to shove, the Right will likely approve the best deal it can wrangle from the president, simply to avoid any further economic horror. In doing so, conservatives will hand Barack Obama a gift he hasn’t earned: a path toward economic recovery that will provide Obama a glimmer of hope in the 2012 elections. Ultimately, Barack Obama will face a very odd situation when re-election time comes around. The base that idolized him will have abandoned him, even as his hated ideological enemies provide him with the tools to get America’s troubled economy back into motion.