Obama 2.0


Ezra Klein has a good post up today about Barack Obama’s inexplicable ongoing dedication to bipartisanship in the face of mountains of evidence that Republicans simply have no interest in negotiating with him. It ends with this:

The White House’s critics think the proof is in the election. Democrats just got “shellacked.” Obama gained absolutely nothing by seeming more reasonable than his opponents. In fact, the Republicans ran some notably unreasonable candidates and still won the election. The question, they say, isn’t why Obama wants this strategy to work. It’s when he’ll admit that it’s failed.

I’ll repeat something here that I said at a talk I gave last weekend: basically, Obama has another two or three weeks to prove he’s not an idiot. During the lame duck session, a continuing public dedication to bipartisanship might make sense because there may still be a few bills that he can pass with just a few Republican votes. And it’s easier to get those votes if he’s not out in the Rose Garden every day telling the world that Republicans are all obstructionist assholes.

But — starting next year that won’t be true anymore. Republicans will control the House, and in the Senate it will take a significant chunk of the GOP caucus to get anything passed. Sweet talking Olympia Snowe will no longer even arguably be a viable strategy. Obama’s only hope is to draw dramatic contrasts with Republican orthodoxy, call them out relentlessly on their obstructionism and corporate obeisance, and try to rally public opinion to his side. It might not work, but there’s no better alternative.

Obama’s legislative strategy was defensible during his first two years because it might have been his best opportunity to peel off a few votes here and there and get stuff passed. But if he keeps it up next year, he’s just being willfully blind. Next year is put-up-or-shut-up time.

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