Lots of otherwise smart liberals are rending their garments in angst over the idea that Barack Obama has lost the message war on heath care reform and is being punked by Republicans because he naively believed he could earn their support through bi-partisan outreach.
Digby: “I actually suspect that many in the Obama White House believed the hype about changing Washington…”
The question I have for them is, if they were so sure from the outset that Obama would never get that support, why do they think Obama thought so. Do they think they’ve got the political smarts over the skinny, big-eared, bi-racial son of a single mother, the “liberal”, outsider, black Democrat, who beat the DNC/Clinton machine and media-beloved, straight-talker war hero to get himself elected president in “conservative” insider-elite, white-dominated, inside-the-beltway Washington?
It’s pretty obvious to me that Obama would have to be a political idiot to look at the past 30-years of “conservative” Republican rule and conclude that they would ever support any Democrat on issues like health care reform or global warming (not to mention the fact that he had a few years in the Senate to experience Republican partisanship and obstructionism first hand). Of course, looking at that same history teaches us another important lesson: you can only govern with the popular support of the people – not campaign promises, not election landslide, not party dominance.
Unfortunately, public opinion, in the land of the politically-detached, pathologically partisan and/or generally ignorant, relies on the picture of what is true and important provided by a corporate press corps and collection of “centrist” gasbags who seem preternaturally committed to everything that is superficial and political, and wouldn’t know empirical truth if it proved they had failed their public journalistic duty for decades (oh, right). Having sold their souls and our future for the acceptance of “conservatives” and their well-paying careers, the corporate press institutionalized their vacuousness and failure to perform real journalism, replaced instead with he-said, she-said political-based-characterizations of policy and a cult-like worship of “bi-partisanship”.
So Obama set about framing every negotiation or policy approach with the “centrist”-pabulum of “bi-partisan outreach to Republicans” purely for the sake of that narrative and that narrative alone because Obama knew that the label “liberal partisan”, within The Village, would likely doom his presidency from the beginning. I find it a bit shocking that liberals, who almost alone understand the workings of the establishment press, their fetish for the “bi-partisan” and “centrist”, as well as their dreadful effects on public knowledge, consistently fail to see Obama’s game and its wisdom.
Meanwhile, do you suppose that the black, “socialist”, community-organizer who “palled around with terrorists” didn’t know that a big chunk of the Republican base would lose their collective minds at the reality of his ascendance to the White House or that professional hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly would continue to demonize him and race-bait their ever-aggrieved audience into near apoplexy, driving a wedge between Republican (self-perceived) intellectuals and the ever-loonier core base, as well as reveal their shocking delusion, ignorance, racism and authoritarian thuggery to the public at large?
At such suggestions I’ve repeatedly been told that I must surely be an Obamaphile, dreamily believing in Obama’s Kage Ninja Karate and 11-dimensional chess. The fact is, I wasn’t an early Obama supporter and had a serious falling out over his broken promises on FISA and abuse of executive power and I still harbor doubts about his intentions. But, otherwise, this is all rather simple political stuff really, things any liberal who’s been paying attention to domestic politics knows well. We’ve been complaining about it since the 1980s.
In other words, Obama is merely playing a good game of regular 3-move-ahead chess strategy. The trouble is, all our brains have been addled a bit by a generation of aggressive, lying, cheating, very effective “conservative” checkers. Liberals have never gotten the hang of that game, thank god (I think) but living in it for so long may have dulled our senses to the more elegant. Let’s not lose sight of the possibilities of and Obama’s mastery at the more strategic political game (Bill Clinton also knew how to play it, if not always in grandmaster fashion) just because we’ve been crowned a few too many times by “conservatives” in the recent past.