Stimulus Politics

by Brien Jackson

There’s growing concern amongst progressives that the Obama Administration is naively catering to Republicans in hope of securing votes that are never going to come, and are only going to water down the stimulus bill. While I’m sure they’re right about the nature of the House GOP, I’m also quite sure they’re not right about Obama’s calculations. In brief, Obama and his advisers have simply proven themselves far too politically shrewd over the past 4 years for me to actually believe they could become so politically blind once taking office. In other words, you don’t go from the Illinois State Senate to the White House in 4 years, beating Hillary Clinton and John McCain along the way (especially if your name rhymes with “Osama” and your middle name is Hussein), and then suddenly forget everything about politics after the campaign. Presidents also don’t personally lean on Congressman like Henry Waxman for the fun of it.

Because of that, I very much doubt that what you see is what you get with Democratic manuevering around the stimulus. I have a few alternative possibilities that I’ll elaborate on after the jump.

1. Democrats are going through the motions of acquiesing to Republican demands knowing Republicans will still oppose the bill, and at some point will call foul, an re-do the bill as they want it before ramming it down Republicans throats. This would make the most short term sense, but I don’t think it’s really the idea based on what we’ve seen go, and what Democrats have refused to give (more tax cuts).

2. Democrats want to give Republicans, especially in the House, a chance to make everyone acutely aware of how crazy they really are. Thus far, it seems to be working, as even someone normally as unperceptive as Norah O’Donnell can see through their nonsense. The more ridiculous they look now, the less seriously they’re going to get taken later. I suspect this would play a role in any decision, but that it’s only part of their overall aim.

3. Give Republicans everything they want, and then let them vote against the bill. This seems like a beautiful long term strategy to me. On the one hand, there’s really no way to justify your actions if you’re a Republican. I mean, if the majority strips basically every spending program you ask them to, how exactly do you vote against it and expect to retain any credibility? This also feeds back into #2 a bit, as one problem it creates for a minority who’s really just looking for roadblocks to throw up is that you have to keep throwing things against the wall. That’s why you’ve got the complaints becoming increasingly ridiculous, and Republicans who just don’t know where to go next. It’d be easy if Democrats were holding fast on the contraceptive waiver Republicans complained about, but since they’ve swiftly dropped that appropriation, what exactly do now? You find something else to bitch about, and when that gets dropped you;ve got to repeat. But eventually you’re either going to complain about something popular, or people are going to recognize it as the “lucy and the football” routine. But as A.L. points out, no one likes Lucy.

And ultimately, what’s the harm in this? You put the things that were taken out into other appropriation bills, and when Republicans complain about them again you remind people that you already “compromised” on that, but that the GOP still refused to support the previous bill. It’ll take an aggressive media campaign to entrench the narrative, but good politics always does.