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Republicans have Obama exactly where they want him

By Adam Serwer

In The New Republic, William Galston writes that Barack Obama has John Boehner "right where he wants him," because of polls showing that Americans want Republicans and Democrats to work together:

So Obama faces a win-win situation. If he extends his hand to the opposition and they spurn it, the independents and swing voters whose views will determine the 2012 election will give him credit for doing what they want while coming down hard on Republican obstructionists. If the Republicans grasp his outstretched hand, then the country might actually make some progress. And by a margin of 49 to 30, the people think that the president -- not congressional Republicans -- should take the lead.

That's absolutely right. If Republicans try to filibuster the stimulus, if they refuse to work with the president on health-care reform, if they simply avoid acknowledging global climate change and the necessity of an energy bill, they're going to get shellacked in the midterms in 2010.

Oh, I'm sorry, my bad, I thought this was 2009.

I bring up this piece because it describes the exact opposite of the political dynamic that currently exists. Boehner has Obama right where he wants him. As Greg noted here yesterday, the new Pew poll shows that majorities of rank and file Republicans want their leaders to be more conservative and more aggressive in standing up to Obama than they have been in the past. In other words, the Republican base doesn't want anything other than gridlock and investigations.

In order to get anything done, in order to be able to boast any kind of bipartisan political victory, Obama is going to have to allow for some deals that take place along terms very favorable to Republicans, because they're going to have to go back and explain to their base why they capitulated to the Kenyan socialist in the White House.

But ultimately, voters don't really care that much about bipartisanship, they care about results. It's been clear to the voters since the beginning that the president has been trying to reach out to Republicans only to be rebuffed by the GOP's strategy of total obstruction. In fact, a Gallup poll way back in April of 2009 found that two thirds thought Obama was willing to work with Republicans, while only 38 percent thought Republicans were willing to work with him. Americans have been convinced of this all along -- but they voted Republicans into power anyway.

Whether the president gets reelected depends on whether the economy recovers and more Americans have jobs, not on the next Congress melting into a campfire chorus of Kumbaya. If unemployment is where it is now, voters will care about "Republican obstruction" about as much as they did in 2010.

By Adam Serwer  | November 12, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Senate Republicans  
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Next: What left wants: A vote only on making middle class tax cuts permanent

Comments

"Whether the president gets reelected depends on whether the economy recovers and more Americans have jobs"

True. That is why we should expect the GOP to do everything it can to prevent the economy from turning around. For an example of this see the years 2009 and 2010.

Posted by: HansSolo | November 12, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Adam, I think you're wrong on this one. Now that the GOP has a congressional majority (but only in the house!), the impetus is on them to cooperate. Perhaps they won't (well, they probably won't), but now that they have power, they get no points for being petulant (at least outside of their base). Bipartisanship/true compromise is the only way voters will get their results.

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | November 12, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Mostly spot on from Adam.

He correctly writes that, "rank and file Republicans want their leaders to be more conservative and more aggressive." But somehow draws the absurd conclusion that therefore, "the Republican base doesn't want anything other than gridlock and investigations."

One does not necessarily follow the other.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 12, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

BoiledFrog at 9:41 AM

I agree with much of what you say.

I would like to add: the "economic multiplier" is different for the two groups of tax brackets.

In one bracket, a higher percentage of goods is investment and job creation.


In the other bracket, the money is distributed in much smaller amounts, and tends to be spent on goods produced overseas - in China and elsewhere.

That makes the trade deficit worse.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I read Mr Serwer's "contribution" here daily. I have learned two things about his offerings:

(1) Take a large dose of salt before plunging into his essay.
(2) Look carefully for the misinformation. It's there but often hidden in subtlety.

The above is no exception. Mr Serwer alleges:
"It's been clear to the voters since the beginning that the president has been trying to reach out to Republicans only to be rebuffed by the GOP's strategy of total obstruction. In fact, a Gallup poll way back in April of 2009 found that two thirds thought Obama was willing to work with Republicans, while only 38 percent thought Republicans were willing to work with him. Americans have been convinced of this all along -- but they voted Republicans into power anyway."

the gallup poll to which we are linked was taken during Obama's first hundred days. A search for the same question on subsequent polls at the gallup website came up dry. In other words, Mr Serwer expects us to believe that the state of play then is the state of play now. There is simply no reason to do so.

the first hundred days is often termed a "honeymoon" and certainly Mr Obama's first 100 days fit that description. But what has happened since then?

Ah, that's where the dose of salt comes into play. The paragraph I quote also urges us to believe that even though we always have and always will view Obama as a true bipartisan, for reasons unexplained by Mr Serwer, the American electorate turned (massively I might add) to Mr Obama's political rivals. Huh? Really?

The bottom line on this is that Mr Serwer has offered us nothing more than what Chemical Dependency counselors call "intellectual Denial". It surely sounds good, and seems well reasoned too. but it specious at best and doesn't get the facts as they stand. Obama and the liberal Democrats were repudiated and they are simply not in the mood to accept that.

So until the Democrats wend their way through the Kubler-Ross grief process we'll be treated to essays such as this. We'll be told that Americans, once again, voted against their own self interest. Not just "What's wrong with Kansas" But what's wrong with Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin too.

We'll be sagely advised that signficant money from undisclosed sources swayed gullible American voters.

And ultimately we'll be told that we're too stupid, too racist and too bitterly clinging to our weapons and our religion to see the benefits that Obama brings to us.

It's been interesting thus far. I'm not a gambler (living in Vegas dampens the urge, let me tell ya) but I'd be interested in an office pool based on when the Democrats snap out of their denial.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 12, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

@sbj3:

Sure, it doesn't follow directly, but the former tactic has given them some traction, and the latter seems to be a favored method of stirring up trouble and looking like they are doing something.

I think Adam has hit the mark, especially with the new cabal of Tea Partiers coming in.

Posted by: eruditeogre | November 12, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Skipsailing

There is also the dynamic of electing democrats.

The democrats get elected, and immediately they want to rush in and start pushing through all these far-left policies.


The thing is: Obama got elected with Centrist rhetoric. Obama promised he was going to compromise with the Republicans - that means negotiations with the leadership, arriving at centrist policies which both sides AGREED to.


The American People simply do not want to see the liberals elected with a bunch of centrist votes, only to turn around and change their tune. This was Clinton's problem too - a middle class tax cut was dropped after the election, and health care was fired up by the liberals - at the time Hillary was perceived as a liberal.


Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

All the usual, leftist suspects are now churning out their usual propaganda that desperately tries to turn humiliating, crushing defeat into some kind of victory and advantage for liberals.

It's amazing hogwash.

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid, axis of incompetence just blew the Democrat party to smithereens after only two years of power. That's a new record. A record of absurd faiure.

The professional LEFT is back on that uphill, propaganda road again. When will the hapless Democrats stop listening to it?

Posted by: battleground51 | November 12, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

@eruditeogre: "The former tactic has given them some traction, and the latter seems to be a favored method of... looking like they are doing something."

I agree but I also partially agree with holyhandgrenade (!) in that Tea Party supporters are going to expect more than just gridlock and investigations from the folks they've elected. I could be wrong (even though I've never been wrong before) but I think Tea Party supporters are expecting some "real action" from the House.

Posted by: sbj3 | November 12, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The professional LEFT is always responsible for repeated, Democrat clobberings that happen with clockwork-like regularity. The looney leftists are pulling the strings that animate the Democrat, party base. These leftists should have dunce caps permanently sewn onto their pointy heads and cast out, into political oblivion. Then and only then will the Democrat party be America's party again.

But, that is not happening so the Democrat party will limp along as an also-ran party for awhile until another talking head, stuffed suit comes along to save them from their misery as Bill Clinton and B.O. did, temporarily.

Right now they are recycling the usual suspects. Another peculiar trait of liberal Democrats, to reward failure and keep pushing failed policies.

Will they ever learn?

Posted by: battleground51 | November 12, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Ethan2010, if you're lurking, I left my response to you on the previous thread. I just reread it and found a huge number of spelling errors. I will not even mention the grammatical errors. My God, if a proper English teacher saw that, it would look like it was soaked in blood from the red pen corrections.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | November 12, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

It is simply amazing that the democrats and the liberals get a few votes in Congress and all of a sudden they stop listening to the American people.


I'm not sure how much louder the American People could have said they didn't want Obama's health care plan.


Then the liberals "twist the polls around" - they ignore what people are saying - they don't want it. And the liberals suddenly turn arrogant and they say people want "individual items" in health care.

But that ignores the OVERALL cost of the program. People do not want an expansion of the Federal government - which seems like a merit badge to the liberals - who appear to only want to play for history books which High School kids read.


Costs matter. Incentives within the system matter.

The way the health care bill was debated - all the moving parts were NEVER really presented to the public in any meaningful way.

A few Senators coming out of a committee meeting rattling off some sliding scale - that gives no one an overall picture of the program

Obama failed to communicate the details properly - even with the 200 speeches he did.


The liberals DID HIDE the details of the health care plan - because they did not want opposition during the debate - but they ended up with little SUPPORT for the details too.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Haa Haaa Haaa


This is the biggest laugh of the year

Adam writes "Whether the president gets reelected depends on whether the economy recovers and more Americans have jobs, not on the next Congress melting into a campfire chorus of Kumbaya"

OK so with the Affirmative Action guy, job performance means NOTHING.

Experience means nothing, qualifications mean nothing.


AND now WHAT Obama does in office means nothing either.


The liberals are WORTHLESS, they are completely HOPELESS

There should be a restraining order keeping all liberal away from government buildings and union contract negotiations. That is how bad they are.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Republican triumphalism is comical. You won a majority in the House, you bungled your run for the Senate majority and you think taking the White House (the only house that matters, unless it is true, all you want to do is have hearings and heckle the President) in 2012 is a sure thing?

Over at The Fix, CC cited a new Pew Research poll this morning. Briefly, "less than half -- 48 percent -- of the people described themselves as "happy" that Republicans took over the House, while 34 percent said they were "unhappy" about the power change.

Those numbers compare very unfavorably to how people felt when Democrats took over the House in 2006 (60 percent happy/24 percent unhappy) and when Republicans reclaimed the House majority in 1994 (57 percent happy/ 31 percent unhappy).

That lack of genuine excitement about the election is paired with an uncertainty about Republican policies for the future. Forty-one percent approved of the GOP's plans while 37 percent disapproved -- far below the 50 percent approve/21 percent disapprove for Democratic plans when they took over in the 2006 election."

Bottom line, the American people have as little use for Republicans as they do for Democrats. Better figure out why before your convention in Tampa. 2016 is a long time from now.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 12, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

In 1993, there was considerable discussions on the subject of whether the democrats should work on health care first, or try welfare reform first.


There was a respected Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Monihan - who went to Clinton and made a strong, strong case for doing welfare reform first, and doing health care later.


(At least at the time Clinton was listening to people on the Hill - I havent really seen that from Obama)

The welfare reform first debate was seen at the time as significant -


Obama should have taken his first years on centrist policies - time to understand the Hill - and time to build a track-record - time to have the country as a whole get some confidence in Obama.


Instead, we saw 2,000 pages bills dumped on the internet in the middle of the night, we saw votes at midnight, votes on holidays - votes on weekends -


Obama would have been wise to slow down down - build confidence on other issues and then go for this.

The situation right now is a complete mess.

The situation as it stands now PROVES Obama's incompetence.

The nation has zero confidence that Obama can do anything correctly.

And the question of whether Obama is making irrational decisions is now FRONT AND CENTER.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to see so much denial from person whose screen name is "shrink2" Perhaps I made an assumption that the word shrink refered to a psychiatrist or psychologist or some sort of mental health professional. I must be mistaken.

Honestly, after months of hearing about the "enthusiasm gap" we are now expected to believe that there was no excitement about the election.

Rank denial is ugly but the Democrats won't develop a cogent recovery strategy until folks like shrink2 get to acceptance.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 12, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"in order to be able to boast any kind of bipartisan political victory,"

Obama's priority to show bipartisan victories has weakened his hand and strengthened the Republicans. It puts them in charge of how much bipartisanship they will allow.

They're not going to like you.
They're not going to work with you, unless it is at your disadvantage.

Dems need to deal with the Republicans from a position of power and stop stop stop trying to win points with David Broder. Stop trying to be high minded and liked by everyone.

It. is. not. working. You will not "transcend."

there are people who are hurting and counting on Democrats to fight for them, not to compromise and capitulate to look good.

Posted by: ANDYO1 | November 12, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Troll, I left you a response in the morning thread, but not on the specifics of the discussion. Check it out, and I'll get to our topic of discussion later this afternoon.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 12, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Don't waste a whole paragraph on an insult skip, just say, shrink2 should see shrink1.

Republicans, put someone like Mitch Daniels up against Obama or you'll just have to have fun playing House until 2016 or beyond.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 12, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

What is clear to anyone who thinks is these mistakes were Obama's.

The democrats can blame the public all they want - but I see few liberals saying that Obama is the incompetent and irrational person which he clearly is.

_______________


Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

You ask, "what comprises the professional left" in America? Quite easy to answer!

They are imbedded in academia. This has always been so because pinhead professors are not doers in the real world. They sit on their butts, in their academic, ivory towers, thinking about how they would like things to be.

Writers, actors, artists, and media types. They control the propaganda and are intellectual wannabes. They have a knack for something and they think they are highly intelligent because of it.

Labor unions: communist wannabes

Assorted aggrieved minorities with their hands out.

A few billionaire communists. This should be an oxymoron.

Lots of lifelong, old coalition, normal, everyday folks who do not realize or care that the Democrat party has been lost in left field for the past 50 years.

This is still a sizable group of people and every once in a while, when independents are angry, this group manages to sieze power.

But when it does, it merely re-energizes the right. America is mostly conservative and most of the time it shows.

Posted by: battleground51 | November 12, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Obama and the democrats made a serious mistake in attempting to portray future "compromises" as victories for Obama.

So, logically, that really discourages the other side, doesn't it ???


If a "compromise" is portrayed as a victory for Obama - then isn't it a defeat for the other side ???? That is exactly what the democrats have been saying for two years.


That is a sabotage of one's own program. You can't have a "compromise" without the agreement of the other side - and if you characterize that "compromise" as a defeat for them, they will not agree.


This is experience. Obama has NEVER compromised in his whole life. He never had a history of compromise in the Illinois legislature - he wasn't even a major player.


The whole thing over the past three yeara has been a disgraceful and shameful deception on the American People.


And somehow a piece like this from Adam Serwer passes as "analysis" of what just happened???

_______________________________


Obama is a liar, he tried to fool the nation in ONE GIANT FRAUD.


Now the country is onto him, they want to undo everything.

And all the democrats have to say is "this doesn't mean that the country supports the Republicans."


Yea, but it proves the democrats are incompetent and shouldn't be involved in government or finances AT ALL.


.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

battleground-

My vote for funniest post of the day, if not week.

Artists have a "knack" for something? Just, wow.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | November 12, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

battleground-

My vote for funniest post of the day, if not week.

Artists have a "knack" for something? Just, wow.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | November 12, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Adam writes:

In order to get anything done, in order to be able to boast any kind of bipartisan political victory, Obama is going to have to allow for some deals that take place along terms very favorable to Republicans,

________________________________


"Boast" - this is the problem with Obama's campaign theme - he has made "compromise" his victory


and then Adam characterizes that as "bipartisan" - well the agreement AND the victory would have to be bipartisan as well


Obama and the democrats have too many times attempted to characterize a "bipartisan agreement" as a "partisan victory" There are too many contradictions in this line of thinking.

NOW, Adam brings this whole contradiction a full circle - by complaining that the terms of the deals will have to be favorable to Republicans.


Well, yea - THAT is exactly what the democrats have been saying for the last three years when they said they wanted "bipartisanship" This is ridiculous. THIS is exactly what Obama and the democrats committed themselves to in 2008.


_______________________


Agreements require confidence and trust - two things that Obama's conduct over the past two years in office have destroyed.


__________________

At this point, it would just be better to get rid of Obama and start from scratch - all this stuff is too silly and ridiculous - we need a whole new crew in there.


Posted by: OrangeForces | November 12, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

All, here's an interesting way the Dems could handle the fight over the Bush tax cuts:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/what_left_wants_a_vote_only_on.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 12, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

@of:(At least at the time Clinton was listening to people on the Hill - I havent really seen that from Obama)

In fact, listening to the congress, particularly the senate is what derailed him.

He said finish HCR debate by august. Instead he ceded to the conservadems on their fruitless attempt to get 1 repub to support a plan that they proposed in the last round and was outlined by the socialist trio of daschle, baker, and dole. He compromised over and over on the guts of the bill to try and get republicans not living in farrightwingnutistan to support it, but instead they just led him on and didn't support it anyway.

He listened to the conservadems (let's set an arbitrary amount for the stimulus instead of looking at the data and making a decision) and the smaller stimulus with lots of non less stimulative items, and lo and behold, it was less effective and the dems paid the price.

If anything he defered too much to congress and didn't stick with what he campaigned on. I know your definition of bipartisanship is the dems crawling over broken glass, shedding all of their priorities and becoming repubs, but that doesn't make it so...

"Yea, but it proves the democrats are incompetent and shouldn't be involved in government or finances AT ALL."

Right the republican control of both houses of congress and the presidency made added more to the debt than all previous presidents combined. Taking surpluses for years to come and making record deficits.. That's the economic acumen of the repubs. Cutting taxes during a war. No net job creation for 8 years...and the repubs are back for another bite of the apple in the house now...

@ss28: No links to the polls you cite, so everyone should ignore your posts. Its that simple...

Posted by: srw3 | November 12, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

C'mon now....Republicans are going to keep doing what they've done since they were in the minority. Nothing but throw bombs at anything that makes stuff better for the American people.

There are enough crazies in the Republican party that they as a group will never put forth anything that may make life better. There aren't enough grownups and moderates in the Republican Congressional or Senatorial ranks to force moderation and the few grownups will cave to Beck & Limbaugh and Palin.

How is that so hard to figure out? Why would any of you think they are going to change now that they have one branch of Congress? No, the nuts think what they did got them that one branch. Those nuts will keep doing it expecting it will help them in 2012. Republicans really are that stupid.

Posted by: kindness1 | November 12, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The hubris of the Republicans will be their downfall in 2012. They take the support of 25% of Americans as a mandate. Thinking they have a mandate--when more people disagree with them than agree with them--they will try to bully thier way through like they have the past 30 years. Please pass the popcorn.

Posted by: wd1214 | November 12, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what will happen in the next few years, but I can tell you that I am 47 and for the rest of my life I will NEVER trust a politician to protect my freedom.
Whatever has happened in Washington has permanently changed me and I will NEVER take my eyes off the road until the day that I die.

Posted by: dswanson2609 | November 12, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

OrangeForces: "The democrats get elected, and immediately they want to rush in and start pushing through all these far-left policies."

I'm so tired of this tripe. What have Democrats done that has been far-left?

Is it health care reform? You know, that reform that was modeled on what far-left Republicans offered in the 1990s, where single payer wasn't even on the table, the public option was dropped, and the result was endorsed by those far-left Republicans Bob Dole and Bill Frist?

Is it cap and trade, which never made it into law and in any case was supported by that far-left John McCain during his presidential campaign?

Is it allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at least for the wealthy, which would return them to the levels we had during the years of the far-left Clinton administration?

Is it the bank bailout, which was instituted by the far-left Bush and supported by those far-lefties Mitch McConnell and John Boehner?

Is it the stimulus, which was of moderate size, apparently a one-time expense, and most of which was tax cuts and aid to the states?

The fact is that all this stuff is remarkably centrist. That people call it "far-left" either demonstrates a successful demonization strategy, an unwillingness to look at reality, or a testament to how far the right has moved in just a few years.

Posted by: dasimon | November 12, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

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