In the six years of his presidency, Obama hasn’t had to do much of that kind of compromising, nor has he been willing to. But in the wake of the GOP’s midterm rout, the president and his aides have now apparently come to the conclusion that that’s what the American public wants — and even expects.
The stakes facing the two presidents are not really comparable. Clinton — in the midst of his first term — was trying to reorient his party by upending three decades of Democratic orthodoxies concerning the social compact, while Obama — nearing the end of his second — was simply trying to avoid the threat of another round of brinkmanship over a government shutdown by passing what — in a less rancorous era — would have been a routine spending bill.
I’ll quote a bit more of Purdum’s article in a moment, but we had to take a little aside together to take note of the way Purdum is framing the story as seen in that second graf. Clinton was trying to reorient his party for modern times (atta boy, Bill!) while Obama was trying to save the country from evil Republican brinksmanship — and never mind that half of the brinksmanship was coming from the Looney Tunes Wing of the Democratic Party.
So with that in mind, onward:
This president bent on Democratic priorities — allowing the weakening of a key provision of the financial reform bill he himself fought so hard to pass, and a big increase in individual contribution limits to political parties and their congressional campaign committees — to stave off even more unpalatable elements: cuts to Obamacare, or retribution for his recent executive actions on immigration. From the administration’s perspective, accepting this bill — warts and all — was better than risking an immediate shutdown or a 90-day continuing budget resolution that would have to be relitigated in the far more unstable circumstances of a larger House GOP majority and a Republican Senate.
Obama’s presumed intention is to live to fight another day. And if he has any hope of avoiding complete marginalization in his last two years in office, that’s just what he’ll have to do — if only by using his veto pen — in the new year.
Before we get to my question, let’s go to Ed Morrissey’s take over at Hot Air:
It’s not as complicated as Purdum appears to think. The reasons why Obama never tried Clinton-style triangulation fall along two lines — different situations and fundamentally different politicians. Clinton was a people pleaser who sincerely wanted to govern. His political DNA derived from the Democratic Leadership Council, which expressly wanted the so-called Third Way to create a path between Left and Right, and then claim it for the Democratic Party. Clinton succeeded at that, but it didn’t last past his own presidency, thanks to Al Gore’s seeming repudiation of Clinton in 2000 in favor of a lean to the Left again.
Democrats still claim to represent the center, but that hasn’t been true for years.
Now, at long last for my question: Triangulate with whom?
In three weeks, the Democrat caucus in the House won’t just be smaller than it was in the ’90s, it will also be far more leftwing. Any caucus that can suffer the kind of catastrophic losses it has suffered under Nancy Pelosi and still keep Pelosi as their leader, is a party which has yet to come to grips with the reality of its political situation, or with the leanings of the electorate. And the further down you go to the local level, the worse it is for the Democrats outside of a few urban and collegiate enclaves. But the Looney Tunes Wing goes on as before, because those Progressive Democrats might be Washington’s only true ideologues.
If Obama thinks he’s going to get those people to tack to the center, he’s crazy or stupid — and he’s neither crazy nor stupid.
The GOP House majority is larger than it’s been since the 1920s, it may also prove to be nearly as conservative as the House Democrats are progressive. At the very least, the Tea Party wing might end up the tail which wags the dog.
The GOP Senate majority is likely to be as disappointing as conservatives fear — but lots of fun to watch. To liven things up we have three likely presidential contenders in Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Those are three outsized personalities, each wanting to pull the party in a different direction. While I’d argue that most any new direction would be an improvement for the party, I still have plenty of empathy for new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the headaches he’s going to suffer.
Meanwhile, the Blue State Only Democrat Caucus in the Senate is probably just as ideological as their House comrades, but with bigger egos. Elizabeth Warren is, I fear, just getting warmed up.
So the question remains: Obama is supposed to triangulate with whom, exactly?
If Obama is hoping to put together a centrist governing coalition out of moderate Ds and Rs, he’s going to find mighty slim pickings. The GOP leadership on the Hill is certainly moderate (all too so) and willing (embarrassingly so) to do Obama’s bidding, as we saw in the budget “compromise” last week. But the rank and file are an entirely other matter. Between the Tea Party element, the Go Along Backbenchers, the Presidents-in-Waiting, the Oh So Moderate leadership, the Loony Tunes Democrats, and his own Vile Progs dominating the West Wing, President Obama would have to perform the impossible political feat of hexigonination.
And that’s assuming Purdum is correct and Obama even wants real compromise — which is almost certainly bunk. Bill Clinton was a tough fighter who took delight in the rough and tumble — but in the end, he was interested in governing the country.
With all the fissures on Capitol Hill, and with all the cover provided to him by the Complicit Media, Obama seems much more likely to go on doing what he’s proven so adept at doing: Exploiting those fissures to divide and conquer among the Republicans, and to unite and rule the Democrats. It’s not governance he’s after, but the destruction of his political enemies.
So heads up, GOP: This is not your father’s Democrat President.