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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Fever Swamp Centrists’ Diddle While GOP Blocks Recovery

From Paul Krugman’s ‘The Conscience of a Liberal’ blog:

I love Jonathan Chait’s phrase “the fever swamp of the center”; it really is true that self-identified centrists are sounding crazier and crazier, as they try to reconcile their fanatical devotion to the proposition that both parties are equally at fault with the distressing reality that Obama actually advocates the policies they claim to want….

Krugman goes on to cite a Washington Post editorial calling “entitlement reform” an “urgent national need.” He calls out the editorial for going all Chicken Little about the “astonishing” $857 billion interest on the debt, which is actually close in percentage terms to what it was when Bush I ran the white house –“not particularly astonishing in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s,” says Krugman, who concludes:

So it’s all there: hyperventilating about the deficit, together with an absolute determination to blame both sides equally no matter how unbalanced they really are. And as Chait, Greg Sargent, and others say, this refusal to hold the worse parties accountable is in itself an important source of our political dysfunction.

Unfortunately, the fever swamp centrists do seem to sway public opinion to some extent, as suggested by the results of a just-released to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, noted by Ariel Edwards-Levy at HuffPo:

Opinion on the automatic budget cuts is conflicted, if not confused: A majority of people say the sequester is a bad idea, but the public is split over whether Congress should embrace more or fewer cuts, and respondents only narrowly preferred avoiding the sequester altogether to facing its results (and reducing the deficit), the survey found. In addition, the pollsters caution those numbers could look very different should the cuts go through.

While it is disappointing that nearly half of the public thinks we need more spending cuts, at least they are clear about which party is more responsible for the problem, as Edwards-Levy explains:

For now, Americans aren’t convinced that anyone in Washington is interested in compromise, but they view Republicans as especially intransigent, echoing the results of another poll released Tuesday that found most view the party as extreme. While President Barack Obama is viewed as only slightly more interested in unifying the country, the Republican party is seen as emphasizing partisanship by an almost 3-to-1 margin.
Just 29 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican party, compared to 41 percent with a positive view of the Democrats, the NBC/WSJ poll found. The GOP is still more trusted to manage the debt and control government spending, but, for the first time in years, the new polling gives Democrats a small edge on handling the economy and taxes.

The Republicans have had a pretty easy ride of it, pandering at every opportunity to lower-information/lazy or conflict-averse voters who, against all evidence, hold both parties equally responsible for our economic predicament. But recent polls indicate Dems are beginning to make a little headway with the public in terms of a more realistic assessment.
Robert Reich is undoubtedly correct that Dems must more vigorously challenge the GOP’s core myths about the merits of austerity when the economy is down and trickle-down largesse of the wealthy as a panacea for all of our economic ills. President Obama is the messager in chief, but all Democrats must do more to help him bust these twin enablers of Republican obstructionism.

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