Senate Democrats are preparing an aggressive legislative agenda to complement the vision President Obama outlined in his State of the Union Address. The goal is to test the idea that the public supports an agenda of aggressive federal action on behalf of the middle class, and that Republicans are locked in a pattern of reactionary opposition, even to popular policies.One of my Facebook friends said that she kept having the feeling while watching Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, "where have you been the past three years?". And that's kind of my reaction to this.
The push is premised on the notion that the country has turned the corner on the fights over deficits and the size of government, and that keeping issues of equity and opportunity for the middle class at the center of the national debate will redound to Democrats' political benefit, either by breaking the GOP or by putting them on the wrong side of public opinion.
But Harry Reid showed on abolishing "don't ask, don't tell" and on his push for the Dream Act that he can actually do this well. So I hope they're serious about this.
One of the big political faults of the Obama Administration that caused political problems for him time after time is that he tried to avoid doing just this: going for a full Democratic proposal and seriously fight for, knowing that might lose, or that it could wind up with a compromise that didn't give the Republicans 95% of what they wanted on the deal. The Republicans' willingness to fight and lose on issues important to their narrative and messaging has been a big advantage for them.
Although the part I'm bolding in the following gave me a quick sinking feeling in my stomach:
Congress will first have to clear its plate of the payroll tax cut issue, and other key measures that expire at the end of February. But after that Senate Democrats plan a relentless push on issues with overwhelming public support, knowing full well Republicans have left themselves little space to work with Democrats, and lack the leverage or the positive agenda they'd need to change the subject.But the payroll tax reduction extension - which has its own problems as policy but those won't be at issue in that fight - itself will be an important moment. The Republicans are almost certain to play chicken with Obama and the Dems over it like they recently did. And if he winds up stumbling along trying various compromise proposals the Reps will inevitably reject, he'll damage his own and the Democrats' messaging yet again before they get to the "after that".
But if they can dodge that bullet - a big if - this sounds right to me:
"We intend to test this theory out by pursuing major chunks of the President's middle class agenda. We’re going to push serious proposals to help create middle class jobs. We're going to defend Medicare. And we will pursue tax reform that makes sense for the middle class," [Sen. Chuck] Schumer said.Go for it, Dems!
Tags: 2012 election, barack obama, democratic party