Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Barack Obama has been widely criticized for being a lousy negotiator and for giving away far more to the Republicans in the debt-ceiling fight than a shrewder person would have conceded, often preemptively.

But why are we ascribing this fault to Obama when the preemptive-concession disease is rampant in his party?

Yesterday, you may recall, Jonathan Bernstein was blogging over at The Washington Post, and he wrote this about Republicans:

Rather than caring about policy, they appear to care more about symbolism, such as a Balanced Budget Amendment, than about actual policy.

Symbolism? Well, guess what: symbolism just took one step closer to becoming policy, thanks to Stockholm Syndrome Democrats:

Moderate Senate Dems prepare a balanced budget amendment

One of the big victories by tea-party Republicans in the debt-ceiling measure signed into law Tuesday was securing a requirement that Congress vote later this year on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

The measure would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber, and then ratification by 38 states, to succeed. And most observers believe passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate is all but impossible.

Enter Sen. Mark Udall, the centrist Democrat from Colorado, who has introduced an amendment proposal and said Tuesday that Democratic leaders have chosen his legislation to be considered in the fall....

Udall's bill has a Social Security "lockbox" (which will inspire a billion "Algore" jokes from the wingnut right) and a provision that "prohibits Congress from providing income tax breaks for people earning over $1 million a year unless the country is enjoying budget surpluses" (which will be declared a tax increase), so it will be mocked as hopelessly "liberal" -- and yet its very existence, and Democratic pedigree, moves the discussion on balanced budgets to the right at the worst possible time to start balancing budgets, and thus moves the far more draconian GOP approach a few steps closer to enactment. Thanks, centrist Dems -- and Senate Democratic leaders -- for the preemptive surrender.


But it's always like this, isn't it? David Dayen points out at Firedoglake that in 2009, long before Republicans tried to burn down the country by tying a debt-ceiling increase to huge spending cuts, a group of senators -- three Republicans and four Democrats, plus Joe Lieberman -- announced that they wouldn't vote for a debt-ceiling increase unless a deficit commission was also formed. President Obama eventually created a commission by executive order, and a clean debt-ceiling increase was enacted -- but that was the template for the recent GOP terrorist incident in D.C., and it came, in part, from Senators Conrad, Lieberman, Bayh, Warner, and Feinstein. Preemptive surrender -- again.


But why shouldn't the Democratic Party be our other Republican Party? It's not as if we in the public are giving elected Democrats any indication that we want progressive change -- at least not in proportions that match those of our enemies:

A telephone poll by the Pew Research Center for People and Press found that Republicans and Tea Party-affiliated respondents both paid more attention to the debt negotiations and were more likely to take action to influence the outcome.

Some 66% of the two groups followed news on the issue closely versus only 34% of those who had different views or did not offer a political opinion. Nor were they passive observers: some 66% of Republicans and Tea Partiers contacted an elected official during the standoff while only 5% of the rest did the same. This despite a direct appeal from President Obama to do exactly that.

As was the case in the midterm election, age was a crucial factor. Only 19% of 18-29 year-olds followed the story closely and 1% contacted an official versus 54% of those over 50 who followed the debate and 16% who contacted an official.

So maybe we're getting the Democratic Party we deserve.

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