Progressives Have Tough Fight Ahead

President Barack Obama pauses to look back at the scene before leaving the platform following the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013. Standing behind the President are First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Marian Robinson. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON – President Obama gave on his Second Inaugural was still fresh. Secretary Clinton’s tour de force performance on the Benghazi terrorist attack that had taken one formidable female down already, Ambassador Susan Rice, had left Republican senators vanquished, with right-wing House members reduced to talking points. Democratic leaders in Congress then promptly showed weakness, making progressives and Democrats wonder if President Obama looking out at his last inaugural might, pictured above, might end up being the high point of his second term.

The joint budget resolution could also call for Medicare reforms and using the chained CPI formula to curb the cost of Social Security benefits. These entitlement reforms combined with tax reform would give Republicans political cover to accept tax increases — or at least more cover than if tax increases were merely packaged as an offset to the sequester. [The Hill, January 23]

What became clear on this past Sunday is that Republicans won’t let President Obama and Democrats have the immigration reform issue alone. Senator John McCain made that clear on ABC’s “This Week.”

MCCAIN: Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that. Second of all, we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows, as well. So I think the time is right.

The old John McCain is back leading on immigration for Republicans.

As for Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid’s collapse on the filibuster, accepting less than he had to in order to make Republicans feel like they were included or whatever excuse you want to use, was the first sign that not much will change in the months to come that Democrats can claim as their own.

It’s like we’re just waiting for the next election, yet again.

Senator Chuck Schumer floated a trial balloon on using the chained CPI on Social Security as a budget cudgel, which is what the quote at the top represents. If it weren’t for progressives that might have worked, but they pitched a fit and Schumer’s office had to give The Hill a clarification, which was added to the column later in the day. The follow-up paragraph reads:

Schumer’s office does not support the idea of fast-tracking Medicare cuts or the chained-CPI formula for Social Security through a budget resolution, proposals that Republicans would likely support. A Schumer aide noted that a reconciliation package could not make cuts to Social Security. This raises the prospect that 60 votes would be needed to waive a budgetary point-of-order objection raised against any reconciliation package reforming Social Security.

All of this could be foreshadowing. As I wrote earlier, President Obama has already warned everyone of what may and may not be possible going forward.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

Shorter Obama: I can’t do this alone, in one term or even two. The deals we make today must be improved upon. Our work is never done.

After all the criticism of Obama’s gender problems, nominating Mary Jo White to the SEC is a strong statement, but even as I laud the appointment because she’s got a reputation as a tough prosecutor, she’s also been an advocate for some real questionable characters, Kenneth Lewis, formerly of Band of America, for one, too. Which leads to the reality of Obama and his problems with holding the 1% accountable; he’s got a lousy track record.

Progressive leader Mike Lux wrote about Obama’s week of “messy narrative,” coming after such an important Inaugural speech. But as I stated in my analysis of Obama’s speech, it was more about his beliefs for the Democratic Party, what must be the duty of all Democrats well after he is gone, than about a roadmap of what he was going to get done in his second term. From Lux:

On the Wall Street accountability agenda, the signals are all over the map. [...]

And in other very good news, two days after a devastating piece from Frontline which was scathing in its reporting on how the DOJ was choosing not to prosecute bankers, Lanny Breuer announced his resignation. According to all of my sources inside the administration who I have talked to about this, Breuer has been the biggest roadblock at the DOJ in terms of holding Wall Street bankers accountable, particularly in the last year in terms of slowing down the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Task Force. A former Wall Street lawyer, Breuer’s leaving is an unqualified good thing.

What we don’t know, of course, is who will replace him, so we will see who gets put in that key DOJ slot next. The big question now is what happens next on the task force. Although I know NY AG Eric Schneiderman is pushing hard on the cases he has brought and is exploring other avenues, he is getting little help right now from the rest of the task force. Breuer seems to be doing everything in his power to slow things to a crawl… In the meantime, the task force’s work keeps being undercut by the terrible settlements that have been announced by other agencies, like the OCC and Federal Reserve’s overwhelmingly pro-bank settlement with a bunch of the biggest banks over wrongful foreclosures. …

[...] So we’ve got little progress on the ability of Republicans to block any decent legislation in the Senate; powerful Democrats who keep saying they are open to a deal that cuts Social Security; a complete muddle over being tough on Wall Street, some good news and some bad; and a clear, confident progressive clarion call of an inauguration speech. There is no narrative to all this. Wealthy special interests, especially the big boys on Wall Street, and the opponents of progress, continue to win out over middle and low income folks most of the time, even inside the Democratic party. Yet the president clearly wants to be seen as a progressive champion. It’s a mix and a muddle.

President Obama has always leaned on the side of compromise to accomplish, negotiate down to get something done. What this means for Social Security and entitlements comes down to what progressives are willing to hold him accountable for saying in his Second Inaugural Address.

Progressives have their work cut out for them.

Taylor Marsh, is a veteran political analyst, a former Huffington Post contributor, Broadway babe and talk radio dabbler, and is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media magazine www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women, foreign policy, and culture.

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  • zephyr

    What’s new? Progressives have always had a tough fight ahead.