* The true nature of Obama’s political dilemma: If Obama reads one thing on the Web today, I hope it’s this piece by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein. It’s a very well argued takedown of the idea that Obama risks alienating the middle by aggressively drawing a sharp ideological contrast with Republicans over the need for expansive government action amid our severe national crisis.
The key to the piece is its identification of Obama’s political dilemma. As I’ve been noting here regularly, Obama’s problem is that even though the public supports his jobs policies, Republicans are likely to benefit from blocking them anyway — because voters may end up blaming Obama for the sense of dysfunction and continued suffering that will result from government’s failure to act. Winning the moral high ground by forever seeking compromise won’t help matters. Mann and Ornstein put it better:
The voting public might now say that it is more conservative and desirous of a more limited role for government, but that’s more an expression of their general frustration with the state of the economy and the seeming failure of ambitious government initiatives to produce tangible results than their true convictions. Move beyond these labels to ascertain public views on specific policy options and you quickly realize that a conservative swing in public opinion is a chimera...
Maneuvering tirelessly to stake out some elusive political center, in other words, won’t help Obama win over swing voters. It’ll just set him up for another year of looking weak and ineffectual...Obama should likewise know by now that working with a supercommittee whose Republican members are under orders from their House and Senate leaders to oppose all revenue increases is a fool’s errand. And imagining that a substantial center in the American public will respond positively to such an approach is pure fantasy ... if there is any hope of achieving bipartisan policy success, it will come from Republicans believing that blocking the president’s initiatives or offers will cause them political harm...
Obama’s new approach of turning up the heat — by calling out Republicans for their obstruction and their opposition even to ideas they have previously embraced, like a continuing payroll tax cut — actually has more chance of achieving ... policy outcomes ... than his conciliatory approach. Obama, at the center of today’s political spectrum, should therefore be explicit and forceful in communicating the stark differences between the parties and the source of inaction and gridlock in Washington.
The fact that Obama’s actual jobs policies and even his ideological disposition represent the middle of public opinion — even as generalized disapproval of him is running high — is absolutely central to understanding what’s happening in our politics right now. Yet it’s rarely acknowledged by our top shelf pundits. Obama’s best hope for winning Congressional action on the economy is to try to communicate this to Americans as clearly as possible and hope that they come to understand who is responsible for all the paralyis in the face of the crisis. Read the whole thing.
* Conservatives for class warfare: Eugene Robinson boils it down:
The hard-right conservatives who dominate the Republican Party claim to despise the redistribution of wealth, but secretly they love it — as long as the process involves depriving the poor and middle class to benefit the rich, not the other way around...Three decades of trickle-down economic theory, see-no-evil deregulation and tax-cutting fervor have led to massive redistribution. Another word for what’s been happening might be theft.
It should be added, though, that Democratic coziness with Wall Street is also fueling the protests — it’s an essential element of what’s happening.
* Today in supercommittee follies: Dems are offering significant Medicare cuts in exchange for tax increases, but as always, Republicans won’t raise taxes, and liberals worry we’re seeing a rerun of a bad movie:
By proposing significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as an early offering, liberals said the panel Democrats weakened their party’s negotiating position as Republicans, who have ceded no ground on their central anti-tax message, sat back and watched.
One thing that makes the dynamic a bit different this time is that the consequences of failure are nowhere near as dangerous as during the debt ceiling fight. So in theory Dems have no incentive to cave this time. In theory.
* Can progressives “occupy Congress”? Relatedly, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is releasing a new Web video today introducing seven Democratic House candidates who are unabashedly carrying the banner for The 99 Percent, part of a broader push to elect better Democrats who won’t get drawn into bad negotiating dynamics with Republicans (see supercommittee follies above).
Whatever ultimately happens to the protests, the fact that some candidates are now running on their platform carries accents of the early Tea Party.
* Time to forget about a “grand bargain” already? If Republicans don’t agree to raise taxes, which they show no signs of doing, there just isn’t going to be any grand bargain. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Anybody?
* John Boehner gives up on Obama: Boehner is very disappointed in Obama for “giving up on governing” by taking his jobs policies to the American people.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say that Obama has given up on him?
* Obama’s bundlers: A well reported Eric Licthblau piece detailing how the Obama campaign is keeping to its vow to not raise money from lobbyists while bringing in cash from bundlers who are in some ways indistinguishable from them.
* Ohio labor fight not a sure thing for Dems: Alec MacGillis’s labor sources out in Ohio confirm it: There are still a number of reasons that Dems should not be complacent about an Ohio win, including the possibility of a massive, scorched-earth ad campaign from national right wing groups in the final stretch.
* The Very Serious Paul Ryan keeps on spewing falsehoods: Post fact checker Glenn Kessler demolishes Paul Ryan’s utterly absurd assertion that there are “219 regulations coming out, each costing over $100 million.”
The sad thing here is that this claim has already been widely made and has already been thoroughly debunked , yet Ryan continues to be treated as a serious fiscal thinker even as he knowingly (or haplessly) repeats documented falsehoods.
* Health care law dropping in popularity: This will drive some discussion today: The new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that approval of the health reform law has dropped to a low of 34 percent, a number, interestingly, that’s driven by dissatisfaction among Democrats.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this doesn’t necessarily translate into support for blowing up the law entirely. This week’s New York Times poll found that only 25 percent support full repeal, though another 20 percent back repealing parts. Still, not good.
* And today’s “advice” that should be ignored: National Journal reports that “some Democrats” worry that Obama’s new populist tone — and anything even remotely supportive of Occupy Wall Street ’s message — risks alienating moderates. None of these Dems said so on the record, however, except (natch) someone from Third Way. Zzzzzzzzzzzz....
What else is happening?