Progressives and liberal Democrats are blowing hot air on President Barack Obama’s tax cut deal. They include saber rattling of a Senate filibuster, screams for everyone from defeated Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold to Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama in the Democratic primary, polls on left blogs and websites running heavily against him seeking re-election, and mountains of sworn promises that progressives will not spend a second of time working for Obama’s re-election or contribute a dime to his re-election bid.
This is pure bluster. The political reality that Obama faced and that progressives and liberal Democrats loathe to admit is that Obama had no choice but to hold his nose and make the deal. The reasons were simple. The GOP held all the cards. It’s nice to engage in feel good rhetoric about Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and to say that the president should have used those majorities, and the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to do a Harry Truman and FDR and give the GOP hell as hypocrites, obstructionists and the party of big wealth.
He would have drawn wild cheers and back-patting from liberals and progressives but come January when the paychecks of tens of millions of workers shrunk, and tens of thousands of small and medium sized businesses screamed bloody murder about tax hikes, guess whose head the wrath of the nation would come down on?
The shouts that Obama should just turn the tables on the GOP and dump the blame back on them also ignores too much. He’s tried to do that all along and the message has been deliberately and skillfully twisted, ignored and used to hector him by the GOP echo chamber.
The fight that liberal Democrats are screaming that Obama should have made all along, one could just as easily have asked why didn’t most of them launch their own national campaign to back Obama and educate their constituents that if the GOP let the rich get their way on taxes after January. It was their fault. But they didn’t and because of a mix of timidity, fear, and in some cases flat out belief that the GOP was right and the tax cuts for the fat cats weren’t a totally bad thing, they dumped the heavy lifting on Obama’s shoulders.
In other words, many Democrats sat on their haunches, either through cowardice or belief in the phony and totally discredited trickle-down line that giving the rich more cash will somehow magically translate into more investment, more jobs and more economic growth.
It’s odious to give money to those who don’t need it, will hoard it and not create one job, or save one foreclosed home, or help sustain one small business. But it would have been even more odious to watch the GOP noise machine trot out nightly a homeless laid off worker, or family pushed over the edge after losing their child tax or earned income credit weeping on national TV about how Obama (not the GOP which rightly should be fingered) pushed them into the breadlines.
The conventional wisdom from progressive and liberal Democrats is that Obama left himself wide open for the beating he’s getting for making the deal with the devil because he promised so long and so vehemently on the campaign trail to nail the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and that he lied, or that he’s just too weak to do anything but cave to the GOP bullying, badgering and hectoring.
That’s even more asinine. Candidate Obama could make any promise he wanted. But presidential candidate Obama didn’t face the loss in November of 60 Democratic House seats, seven Senate seats and a slew of suddenly GOP controlled state legislatures in the must win states of Ohio and Florida in 2012.
Candidate Obama did not face a GOP that will stop at nothing to hack up or do away with any aid to the poor, working class and unemployed, and that has the power to do it. That’s called hard-nosed realpolitik. This has and always will trump symbolic protests, or un-winnable lines in the sand. Obama got the best deal he could have gotten given the impossible political odds he faced, and any other Democrat that sat in the same seat would have done the same.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.