Did President Obama Spring a Trap?

Posted: February 17, 2012 in 2012 Campaign, Healthcare
Tags: , , , , ,
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Was it just the way things played out or was it a carefully crafted strategy brilliantly executed?

A year ago the prospect of a second term for Preside’snt Obama presidency looked problematic, at best. A lousy economy, high unemployment and intractable legislative gridlock will do that. And, to make matters worse, Obama’s base sent him to Washington to implement change, not compromise his way to the middle, as was evidenced by the way the health care bill was negotiated; give, give, give and get damned little back in return.

Then came the midterm elections. The house was lost and the incoming Republicans, most of them Tea Partiers, vowed to obstruct Obama at every turn even as he continued to play nicely with others. Frankly, it drove me nuts until the debate over the debt ceiling. It was here that the political calculus seemed to shift.

With the ultra-conservative ideology of the Tea Party holding sway over the House, with Majority Leader and Tea Party favorite Eric Cantor holding a gun to Speaker John Boehner’s head, President Obama held his ground, refusing to provide offsets for the debt ceiling increase. But it was something John Boehner said in a press conference that connected the dots for me. Boehner called on the President to display some leadership and to bring the sides together. In other words, he wanted the President to do what he (Boehner) wasn’t able to do within his own party. To say it another way, he wanted Obama to step into what had become an abyss of irreconcilable differences … differences that had Boehner swinging in the wind. Wisely, President Obama declined to do so in favor of allowing the inevitable dysfunction play out.

Had Obama set a trap going which actually began during the health care debate? Did he get the best deal he could get and, in so doing, keep a campaign promise? Did he wave a white flag during the midterm elections realizing that to do otherwise was a waste of political capital in the face of an overwhelming right-wing headwind against everything he stood for? Did he display an infuriating willingness to compromise with his political enemies in order to appeal to independents? Did he know that the Republican primary would turn out to be a bloodbath with no candidate emerging undamaged? And, most importantly…

…did he know that the Tea Party overreach at the federal, state and even local levels
would energize the Democratic base like nothing else ever could? (See Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, etc.)

Of course, from my liberal outpost in the suburbs of north Jersey I can only speculate as to what the overarching strategy really was (or even if there was one), but if ever there was a time for a trap, this was it. I believe that the Republican Party correctly sees 2012 as the biggest election in generations and, perhaps the swan song of its conservative, trickle-down-economic ideology. The reasons are many but chief among them are increasingly unfavorable demographics as non-white populations continue to increase, and baby-boomers continue to age. That creates an all-in sense of urgency that will make the 2012 Presidential election the dirtiest and the most corrupt in the history of the Republic. Fortunately, the President appears to have recovered from a couple of tough years, while the other side looks like a bunch of monkeys trying to screw a football.

  1. nomadicview says:

    Super post. I hope you are right but let’s make it happen. Btw, Nomadic Politics is a new progressive blog with investigative essays on a variety of issues. Take a look if you can. http://goo.gl/H67SV

    • bmccabe says:

      Love your blog. Alas, what I have learned over the past few years is that so many things about Republicans and the Right make me vomit. Does that make me worse than Rick the Theocrat?

  2. William [Political_Bill] Talley says:

    Nice post, but President Obama has had a strategy since taking office. From the recession & employment being much worse than anticipated, the BP Horizon crises, GOP Senators filibustering EVERYTHING, and admittedly weak messaging by the White House, it was hard to see the strategic genius the first 3 years.

    However, it is encouraging that his political strategic moves are becoming more apparent by Democrats and the media. But things could be that much better if all progressives would have gotten & stayed behind him.

    • bmccabe says:

      Hi William. I agree that things would have been better, but with one caveat.They certainly would have been better for Progressives, and I would have slept a lot better. But all along this has been a positioning battle for the independent voter. By painting himself into a progressive corner, the independent vote would likely go elsewhere. And now, independents are getting a good look at the politcal drivers behind the other side and that can do nothing but help the Dems in November.

      One of the most frustrating things that I find about Obama is that, as the smartest guy in the room, he often seems to dumb himself down so as not to appear “professorial” or “elitist.” Frankly, I think he should go all in against these whackjobs and tell the American people how things really are.

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