The left can’t figure out why President Obama is so quick to give in or compromise to Republicans. This is what I think–and worry about: Obama is working a calculated strategy, but I’m not referring to the “he’s playing chess while the other side is playing checkers” game plan his supporters always hoped Obama was playing.
President Obama, like President Clinton, is positioning himself squarely between the left and the right, which he and his advisors believe is the ideal place to be to win re-election. This is their primary focus. It worked for Clinton–remember “triangulation”?– and he easily won a second term.
But there was a serious cost to Clinton’s strategy, paid by the Democratic Party and the American people. If you recall, Clinton rolled over on financial reform, welfare, communications, trade, and other Republican-oriented policies. But he always stayed closer to the center than Republicans, which was politically advantageous. Because of his timidity and because of the consequences of these policies, the Democrats kept losing seats and eventually, control of Congress. The American working class lost their jobs, financial security, and government safety net.
The Obama administration is moving in that direction. They understand that by staying just slightly left of the Republican Party (quite easy to do these days) and just right of his progressive Democratic base, he will be in his best position to win a second term. If that is the most important goal, then sacrifices have to be made, and it is once again the Democratic Party and working class Americans who will sacrifice the most. Just like during the Clinton years, the Republican party is gaining ground and hoping for total control of Congress. The American lower and middle classes struggle as the upper classes expand their share of the economic pie, while the president, afraid to challenge the system and those who really wield the power, is content only to mitigate the damage.