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Belmont Club

“Punch back twice as hard”

August 6th, 2009 - 11:17 pm

The Politico says that the Obama administration is regrouping after its health care “reforms” advocacy campaign encountered stiff resistance.

Top White House aides gave Senate Democrats a recess battle plan on Thursday, arming the lawmakers with tips for avoiding disastrous town hall meetings while showing them polling on popular aspects of the reform effort. … They showed video clips of the confrontational town halls that have dominated the media coverage, and told senators to do more prep work than usual for their public meetings by making sure their own supporters turn out, senators and aides said. … “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting.”

Translation: The administration underestimated the opposition and was rocked back on its heels. But it promises its troops that the next time out it will bring up the reinforcements and crush all before it. Can they do it? Maybe. The Obama campaign has the proven capability to muster its troops. It has blitzed the opposition before. But the mere fact it had to dig deep and mobilize its grassroots and publicists means that their intelligence is imperfect. They were surprised when they shouldn’t have been. Behind the bluster a certain shadow of doubt has crept into their councils.

The grassroots conservative pushbacks have been stiffening the spines of Congressional Republicans who have been doing a wonderful job of leading from the rear. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said, “In our committee, we had to vote, and 10 Republicans voted against all those insurance reforms — every single one of them. Not many people know that but if I have anything to do with it, they will know it.” Another source said “If Republicans aren’t there, it could get to the point where sometime after the recess. … Democrats may have to go in a different direction. I hope not, but we have to face facts.” Possible translation: if the Republicans get really scared of their constituencies, it might be hard to cut a deal. The Boston Globe describes the situation in an article titled “Dream of DC Bipartisanship Shrivels”.

Hopes for a bipartisan approach to solving the nation’s ills, a goal President Obama made a core element of his “change’’ election campaign pitch, have virtually evaporated as party-line feuding and harsh exchanges between political leaders overshadow their earlier efforts to work together. The Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor yesterday garnered just nine GOP votes in the Senate. … The proposed expansion of healthcare coverage to all Americans – an ambitious undertaking that Democrats desperately hoped would win bipartisan backing – is evolving with little GOP support. Obama and Democratic Senate leaders in recent days have raised the possibility of trying to pass a healthcare overhaul without reaching across the aisle, using a parliamentary maneuver to prevent Republicans from blocking the bill with a filibuster.

If the Democrats do “punch back twice as hard” it will benefit the conservative grassroots organizers immensely. The Left already has a hard core of activists where  the conservatives simply had a bunch of guys with day jobs who were becoming involved in ways they’ve never done before. Any encounter between these two sides will result in the asymmetrical radicalization of the conservatives. Every encounter will generate relatively more activists for the conservatives than it will for the Left. Continued indefinitely the lopsided exchange might change the balance of forces. But Obama is determined; he’s trying to “move forward” at the very edge of his envelope, at a time when government is out of money, facing declining tax revenues, at a moment when his popularity is at or below 50%. He is confident in his Old Guard and strangely obsessed with conceding nothing; in retaining and extending all the ground he has taken; in standing fast. There must be no retreat. Hope and change must hold in place. But in any prolonged face off with the amateurs they’ll discover that the newbies don’t stay newbies forever. Maybe the Administration will hit back twice as hard when the bell rings and grin, but there are ten more rounds to go.

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