On forests and trees

Well, as predicted, the screeching on the Left has been turned up to 11. A clear victory for Democrats and progressive policies has been turned by sectors of the Left, yet again, into a Satan sandwich.

It was predictable. President Obama and the Democrats achieved something unimaginable a year ago: a deficit deal in which the ratio of revenue to spending cuts was 41:1. Let that sink in. For every $1 cut in spending, $41 was raised in revenue.

Furthermore, none of the cuts were from the safety net. Grandmothers won't have to eat cat food, and inner city children can still see doctors via Medicaid. The triggered cuts, the ones that were supposed to combine with the expiration of tax relief to create the fiscal tsunami, have been delayed for two months; just in time for the debt ceiling rise.

This screeching on the Left is not helpful, insofar as it gives the lazy stenographers of the mainstream media license to opine that Obama is "losing his base".

Of course, DailyKos, Firedoglake, and the assorted gallery of the left media world were never Obama's base. One doesn't support a candidate and then turn on him the minute he doesn't follow your preferred agenda or strategy and call oneself a "strong supporter". There was a little bit of hubris in the Left media; it thought that with Obama in the White House, he would turn to them for counsel, as they felt they had the pulse of the electorate.

However, most Americans aren't of the Left.

What those of the center-left to the center see is that Obama is "standing up to his base". He's doing no such thing, of course; it's those very people of a centrist bent who elected Obama both times; they're his true base.

Meanwhile, what the middle of the country sees is a Republican Party unable to stand up to what is truly its base. John Boehner finally had to throw his hands up in despair and allow a free vote on the fiscal cliff deal, with his hide saved by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and a disciplined Democratic Party.


Of course, the Left's disillusion goes back to the epic "cave" of the 2011 debt ceiling fight. It had its antecedents in the lack of a "public option" during the health care debate—a debate during which a great swathe of left bloggers did nothing but snipe from the sidelines. The debt ceiling fight was the final "betrayal".

For a precis of what Obama actually achieved in 2011, see here by our own Deaniac.

The deal took the debt limit off the table for the 2012 election. Obama knew he had a winning hand for the election, and that he would still be around for the fight once the "fiscal cliff" was within sight. He also knew that the special commission entrusted to find savings and revenue would come to nothing, as the parties were so far apart in a basic vision for the country. Thus the triggers would have to be dealt with, and that's where he had his leverage. The Teabaggers might yearn for the austerity current in Europe, but those who fund the GOP don't. Wall Street and corporate America know what many of the GOP's base don't: the US federal government is one of the country's main economic engines. Government contracts either keep many companies afloat, or add to the bottom line of others. Take away that spending, and a recession looms.

Through the debt limit deal, Obama put Boehner in a position where he couldn't control the extreme elements of his caucus—which, as it turned out, consisted of 2/3 of his membership, once the final vote for the fiscal cliff solution was counted. He exposed the GOP as being riven by internecine strife, with no one able to exert any sort of leadership over the fractured caucus. And he showed that most of the caucus in the House consisted of people who were willing to trigger a recession rather than compromise.

Now, those on the Left are saying that the next debt limit crisis will be the same as in 2011, as the tax deal took away a cudgel. They see him as weak, and without an ace up his sleeve they see that he will revert to being the "conceder-in-chief".

But Obama did two things with these negotiations. Firstly, he got the Republicans to violate the "Hastert Rule" and allow a free vote on the bill without it having to have a majority of the GOP caucus on board. Secondly, he got a majority of Republicans in the Senate and a chunk of them in the House to vote for higher taxes on the rich. As many commentators have noted, this is the first time taxes have gone up on the rich since Bill Clinton's days.

By doing those two things, he shredded a major component of Republican governing ideology. Party discipline and no tax rises ever were two of the modern GOP's cornerstones. By maneuvering them into violating both, he not only exposed them as feckless, but he also lit a fuse for the GOP civil war.

Boehner is now saying that he will no longer negotiate in private with Obama. Boehner doesn't realize that he has no choice. Many states may be gerrymandered, but the fact is that 2014 looms, Obama is more popular than at any time in his presidency, and the GOP is viewed with the kind of disdain which preceded the 2006 elections.

The national GOP, much like the GOP here in California, is heading towards permanent minority status, regardless of gerrymandering. Demography is destiny, and even in the South demography is trending Democratic. Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina will join Florida and Virginia as being blue states in the red South. Without those, no Republican has a chance at the White House, and no coalition can be cobbled together for the House.

Between now and 2016, there will be many battles waged both nationally and on a state level. We have to win the state battles; statehouses are the GOP's power base; they have to be deprived of them. The tragedy of 2010 wasn't solely that Democrats lost the House; we also lost many states, where national politics are affected. The forecast looks good for retaking many of those states, but complacency is not allowed. The 2014 elections have to be fought both in Congressional districts and in the states. States that Obama won in November have to be retaken; otherwise, the political battle nationally will drag out for several election cycles.

Obama is not only seeking to neuter the GOP, but to remake the Democratic Party in his image: tough, pragmatic, liberal, and light on its feet, never allowing the GOP to get back in the fight. It's the culmination of the Civil War which never ended. It's what we have to see through to its end.