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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Divide and conquer

Barack Obama's State of the Union offered a tempered vision for temperamental times. But a more important division was on display in Congress.

While lawmakers and commentators made a big deal out of “date night” and bipartisan seating, there was clear division in the room – and not just between Democrats and Republicans.

Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann anointed herself spokeswoman of the Tea Party and offered her own rebuttal separate and apart from the party-designated spokesman, Paul Ryan.

While the new House Budget Committee Chairman scaled back his own rhetoric about rearranging Social Security and Medicare, he called for deep but unspecified cuts to a budget that has been swollen in large measure because of GOP decisions during the years they controlled the Congress and White House.

That tame rhetoric was obviously not good enough for Bachmann, the self-anointed leader of the Tea Party Express, who spent six minutes in trying to pin all the ills on Obama.

It worked in 2010, but it may not work again. Particularly as the split between the hard tight and the harder right plays out.

You don't have to look very far to see what happens when parties can't agree amongst themselves. For all that Obama accomplished in his first two years -- historic health care legislation and a small start to reining in the excesses of Wall Street -- the divide among Democrats who felt he went too far or not far enough eventually blew up efforts to solidify and extend those gains.

Politics trumped policy, as it always does in a media-fueled society where cable television gins up controversy 24-7-365.

Republicans clearly face those same fissures, but with an added problem -- Americans are all for cutting spending -- when it's someone else's ox being gored. And the depth of the cuts being proposed by Republicans -- along with the sacred cows being spared -- means eventually everyone's ox is in jeopardy.

The reality of having to do something other than saying no -- and offering cheap symbols like health care "repeal" -- is eventually going to hit home.

Liberals and progressives may sneer at Obama "moving to the center," despite the historic changes he brought about. But that center is where most Americans are and it's closer to the left than the right edge from which Republicans are operating.

It's a reasonable bet Americans will reject the hard right Republican proposals once they realize what it will mean to them. Of course, that's as long as liberals and progressives don't get caught up in their own partisan squabbles.

Ryan can't soft pedal his Social Security and Medicare ideas forever. And liberals and progressives should make sure Americans know that's what Republican health care reform and spending cuts are all about.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Readwriteblue said...

Our nation has a center-right majority. Unfortunately for far left politicians they are markedly outside the mainstream. True they enjoy the support of much of Academia and most journalists. They just don’t have the support of the working class who famously became “Reagan Democrats” a generation ago. Two years ago the election of President Obama was heralded as the start of a new progressive majority. Nothing could have been further from the truth. It is now self evident that it was the free spending, liberal leaning Republicans that were rejected. They have been replaced with a new group of more main stream Republicans. The midterm election was a correction for the excesses of the far left which truly own the excesses of our government.

January 26, 2011 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Readwriteblue, you parrot the extreme right ideas that the GOP tests markets through its PR flacks to sound moderate.

These new Republicans aren't mainstream. They wanted to privatize Social Security in the 90s, but that was rejected, so their PR people invented the term "private accounts" for George W. Bush. Now they want to raise the retirement age, as a "sacrifice."

The vast majority of Americans think Social Security should not be cut. That the retirement age should not be raised. They wanted Medicare to include a buy-in, even after all those town hall PR stunts in August 2009 against healthcare.
The Republicans in the House are extreme, not mainstream like the public.

WaPo poll Dec 2009.

January 27, 2011 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm fringe but I think Soc Sec should be changed. If at the beginning of your working career you opt out, and the government takes the equivalent money and puts it in a private account you'd be better off. Even with the ups and downs my 401k is doing quite well. As far as age allow people to leave whenever they want and they can draw down what they've saved. Some can retire to Costa Rica when they're 40 if they want. Those living in Mass will have to work till they're 70, their choice. If you use up your moneyscrew you, no welfare.

January 28, 2011 5:13 AM  

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