The comic highlight from an otherwise depressing day-after presser in which The One affirmed that, yes indeed, he’ll be sticking to his agenda as best he can. Anyone surprised? A revealing admission from a Politico piece this morning on a possible “shake-up” inside the White House:
Obama has had weeks to brace for the worst, unlike Clinton, who was blindsided by the ’94 results. But some of Obama’s allies fear he will take Tuesday’s results too much in stride. That perception was fueled by Axelrod, who told a gathering of Democrats earlier this week that he didn’t interpret Tuesday’s expected debacle as a rejection of the president.
“I’m not sure [Obama] gets it yet,” said one person close to the president.
Is that it? Or is it that Obama “gets it” in a way that political horse-race obsessives like me don’t? The money question of this election is whether, knowing now that his decisions would lead to a Blue Dog bloodletting, The One would have scaled back his agenda if he had it to do over again. I don’t think he would have; if anything, I bet he’d have gone for a bigger stimulus and possibly a public option on ObamaCare to yank the country as far left as he could. That is to say, when push comes to shove, I think he’s willing to trade seats for “accomplishments.” One of the most trenchant critiques of Hopenchange from righties is that Democrats played a long-term game in passing O-Care, hoping that it wouldn’t hurt them too badly on election day but resolved that they would accept a beating if need be as the cost of setting the country on track to true socialized medicine. Whether they made the right call will depend on whether the GOP eventually has the opportunity and the nerve to undo those “accomplishments,” but AmSpec’s Philip Klein makes an excellent case for why they did the smart thing strategically:
The American public didn’t go from being socialists to Reaganite conservatives in the past two years, any more than their ideology radically transformed from 2004 to 2006. The lesson of recent elections, thus, may not be that the American people are right of center, or left of center, or dead center, but that many of them aren’t terribly ideological. This means that political power is ephemeral. No matter how popular one party is, they could be only one election away from embarrassing defeat. No matter how badly one party is defeated, they could be on the verge of a historic comeback. In this environment, reports of the demise of any political party, at any time, are likely to be greatly exaggerated.
One reaction to this reality is to argue that a political party should enact as many of its policy goals as they can while in charge. While Obama’s presidency is shaping up to be a spectacular failure from a political perspective, he may view it as a smashing success from a liberal ideological point of view. Instead of squandering Democrats’ time in power by playing small ball, he went bold.
In a volatile age, where majorities may not last long, it’s crucially important for a party to seize its chances to remake the legislative landscape. Rahm Emanuel recognized that all the way back at the beginning of Obama’s term with his rhetoric about treating a crisis as an opportunity; Obama himself alluded to it today in framing his agenda as a necessary response to an “emergency.” The theme in both cases is urgency in capitalizing on favorable political conditions, a lesson Republicans of all ideological stripes should keep close to their hearts. If the GOP ever does get a real shot at repealing ObamaCare — or, more momentously, at reforming Social Security and Medicare — take it. Take it and worry about the electoral consequences later. Lost seats can be regained, but legislation — usually — is forever.