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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Spinach President

In his interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senator Dick Durbin came up with what could serve as an apt political catch-phrase for the holiday season: “…We’ve got to eat the spinach and keep moving on.” Durbin’s remark provides a timely reminder that (political) life sometimes presents unpalatable choices, but there comes a time when the choice must be made to avert even more unpleasant outcomes.
The Deal is expected to pass the Senate today. I hope the House will be able to compell the Republicans to accept at least some tax increases for the very wealthy, doubtful as it looks at present. We do have to ‘walk the walk’ as a Party that not only gives lip service to the principles of tax fairness and fiscal responsibility, but actually stands for them, if we are ever going to win the consistent support of the middle class.
Many progressives are ticked at the President for his leadership in creating this situation. I know he’s privy to all kinds of inside political and economic information I’ll never see. But I’ll never be sure he negotiated the best possible deal. The Republicans may hang tough in opposing even a modest tax hike for millionaires, but we sure as hell ought to at least try to make them accept one.
Still, it’s a high stakes gamble to leave it all up to the next congress, in which the Republican-controlled House could pass an even more reactionary tax bill, force the Senate to accept most of it, and then hold extension of unemployment benefits and other Democratic priorities hostage. I’ve yet to see a convincing argument that it couldn’t get worse if Dems stiff The Deal.
Obama may go down as “the spinach President.” He made enraged Republicans eat their spinach on health care reform, because something had to be done for the good of the country, as well as the uninsured, since health care was taking an unacceptably large bite out of GDP, in the range of 20 percent compared to 10 percent in other industrial nations, damaging our competitiveness. Now he’s coaxing angry progressives to eat their spinach, because he believes, wrongly or rightly, that this is the best tax deal available under present political circumstances.
if the current controversy means that President Obama could be a one-termer, it appears he is willing to make the sacrifice to do what he believes is right. The scariest statistic I’ve seen recently comes from Robert Creamer’s reminder in the post below that, “After all, no president has been reelected in the last century when the unemployment rate was above 7.2 percent.”
Thus a lot is riding on the prompt extension of unemployment benefits and increased economic stimulus, however adequate, is even more urgently needed to get the unemployment rate down as quickly as possible. Republicans know it and they will delay any cash infusion into the economy as much as they can if The Deal fails. Obama has busted historical precedent before. But it would be folly to expect re-election with the national unemployment rate north of 8 percent.
If the sharpest political strategists on the Hill determine that we can’t make the Republicans accept even a modest tax hike for the rich, by all means grumble, gripe and complain. But at that point, pass the spinach — and quickly.

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