Why Would Obama Make a Deal with 42% of the Country?The fact that under President Obama's deal with the GOP, the top 2% of incomes will continue to receive a tax cut, while the bottom incomes will see their taxes raised,1 makes me sick. It's immoral.
There is plenty of commentary on how the particulars of the deal are a complete capitulation to the Republicans, so I won't repeat that here. Rather, I will say that the mere fact that Obama even tried bargaining with representatives of 42% of the country2 shows how politically incompetent this administration is.
Yes, I'm aware that 40% representation in the Senate is all that is needed to kill anything. And that another 3 to 5% of Senate DINO's make passing progressive legislation hard. But the administration's strategy of negotiating across party lines with the minority is still back-stabbing. Is there any other interpretation of the fact that the House wasn't included in the negotiations? Even if you concede that Mitch McConnell controls the Senate, which Obama most certainly has done, any deal that has a real chance of passing in the lame duck has to include Nancy Pelosi. Why was she shut out?
The only thing that makes any sense is that Obama wanted the particulars of the deal he got. Amazingly, he has a desperate need to agree with Republicans. Remember the no Red States, no Blue States bit from 2004? Obama does - it launched his career. But there is a problem in the real world of 2010 outside of the Democratic convention hall. The GOP insists that there are Red States and that they will never agree with Blue States. That leaves Obama a choice: either change his deeply held beliefs about American politics, or say there are no Blue States. Like most people, his unfounded beliefs won, and the Democratic base lost.
UPDATE: Another factor in Obama's incompetency is his supreme confidence in his abilities, especially creating conciliation between rivals. But that requires the conciliator to be separate from either side. I'm sure Obama could artfully explain two opposing views on a constitutional law question and remain neutral while directing his students as they argued it out. And I'd bet Obama really thought that if he could just sit down across the table with the more difficult side, he could convince them to come to an acceptable agreement.
But that's not the way it works. The President is not above the fray, removed from all positions in any debate. In fact, he is the fulcrum opposing views pivot around. Even triangulation requires the middle point to calculate exactly where the other two points are. So you can't do it if one point isn't involved in the process.
Unfortunately, a conciliatory political philosophy is a character flaw in negotiations. Obama will continue to get rolled if it is left up to him. The House is starting to push back, but it faces an extremely uphill battle right now. Narratives freeze almost instantly today. Good luck, Nancy. If she can pull something off, she will go down as one of the most successful House Speakers of all time. Per session (or per pound), easily the most successful.
1 The $400 per person Making Work Pay tax credit will not be renewed (you remember you got $400 from the government this year and last, right?), while the 2% reduction in payroll tax will not make up for that until single income is above $20,000 or family income is above $40,000. Thus, their taxes will go up.
2 179 House GOP members make up 41.2% of the chamber. There are 42 Republican Senators. Interestingly, if you try to account for malapportionment, you also get 42% of the American people represented by Republicans in the Senate. I have actually read a book on malapportionment in the U.S. Senate, "Sizing Up the Senate" by Frances E. Lee and Bruce Ian Oppenheimer. I got it in the cheap bin. Really good stuff. Basic chart here.