But leverage in politics and legislating is not about what you can do to convince your own side. It's about what you can do convince the other side or if not convince them, put them in a bind so they have to acquiesce to your demands. That kind of leverage was not available to the president - Republicans (and some Democrats) had no incentive to cooperate with the President on health reform, financial reform, student loan reform, credit card reform, and so on. Actually, as the professional, sanctimonious Left joined the chaos of the radical Right to try to stop these reforms on the excuse of not-good-enough-ism, they helped reduce any leverage the president did have.
So what is leverage? This is leverage:
Hensarling looked for help from President Obama, who is traveling in Australia. He noted that he told the president in a phone call last Friday that he wanted Obama to clarify or rescind a veto threat he issued to Congress back in September, when he said he would reject any plan to overhaul entitlement programs without asking the wealthy to pay more in taxes.That veto threat has shaken the Republicans to the core. I think that's when they first began to realize that Obama is playing hardball, and that he has now successfully forced an internal GOP fight between the anti-tax religionists and the defense hawks. They have to pick either Grover Norquist or Lockheed Martin, and face the wrath of the other.
Suddenly, the GOP co-chair of the supercommittee is walking back his comments that a measly $250 billion revenue raiser is their final offer. Suddenly he is looking to save face. Suddenly the Republicans are so scared that the Defense and medical industries (largely Republican benefactors) will suffer from cuts - and as a consequence dry up their own campaign funds - they are talking about compromise. Compromise with Barack Obama - the man they have spent so much time and effort convincing their base is the anti-Christ, the Devil, Hitler and every other evil character ever known to man - fictional or real.
But how did the president even get to have this leverage? I hate to sound like a broken record, but he made the Republicans in Congress hand him this leverage on a silver platter while John Boehner was too busy dancing around saying how he got 98% of what he wanted from the debt limit deal (and Markos Moulitsas was lapping John Boehner's words right up). The debt limit deal's automatic cuts in defense and Medicare provider and insurance company payments, while taking off the table Medicare benefits, social security and other programs for the needy, put the Republicans in a rut. And for once, Congressional Democrats seem to be playing their hands right on this one. Pelosi, Reid and other Democrats have signaled that if the Republicans don't cave on taxing the rich, they will block GOP attempts to spare the defense industry from the cuts. Here's Leader Pelosi:
“The sequester is what it is,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol, referring to the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts that would be triggered if the supercommittee fails to agree to that amount in deficit reduction over the next decade.And here's Harry Reid:
“There are some who think or have suggested that the oath to Mr. Norquist is more important than other oaths that members take.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats will block Republican efforts to torpedo cuts to the Pentagon should the supercommittee on deficit reduction fail...That's leverage. While everyone thought that the president "caved" during the debt deal by not getting any revenue raisers up front, those who actually read and studied the damn thing saw this day coming clear as daylight. And don't think for a second that the White House is not behind this newfound resistance on the Democratic side against the GOP attempts to restore the Defense spending that would be cut if the supercommittee fails.
“If the committee fails to act, sequestration is going to go forward. Democrats are not going to take an unfair, unrealistic load directed toward domestic discretionary spending … and take it away from the military,” Reid said.
Why? Because President Obama and Leaders Reid and Pelosi fundamentally understand what the Republicans are actually trying to do here: they know they handed the leverage to the President and Democrats on a silver platter, and this attempt to restore the Defense spending is in reality an attempt to nullify that leverage and instead gain an upper hand as the leverage goes to the domestic spending side (advantage GOP). That's why the Democrats are not about to let it happen.
In conclusion, let me go back for a second to what I started with. I don't think the sanctimonious ideologues on either side of the political isle understand leverage very well. One reason President Obama was able to get John Boehner stuck into this rut was because the Republican side of Congress is made up largely of sanctimonious ideologues who are more interested in ideological 'victories' than in actual progress. The professional whiners on the Left would like our side of the isle to be made up of sanctimonious ideologues by and large too, and more importantly, they want a president who is a sanctimonious ideologue. We are lucky that they don't have their way. Because sanctimonious ideologues are too taken up by their ideological sanctimony to ever play out a long political battle and actually gain leverage.
And that's the word.