What is proving to be a huge problem for President Barack Obama? It’s turning out to be members of his own political party — not that that many (including many who write on this site) didn’t predict that this could happen. But it’s becoming increasingly clear with each passing day that Obama has to battle two sides of his own party (liberal and more conservative Democrats) as he is all the while demonized and denounced by GOPers.
CNN”s Gloria Borger summarizes the situation perfect. After saying that Obama deserves a lot of credit for pushing and framing the health care debate she writes:
The strategy was forthright: Since the country has debated this issue for decades, there’s no need to redo it all. And don’t write a bill like Clinton did so Congress can spend its time picking it apart. Rather, let the committees (five in all) move their bills and reconcile them until the House and Senate each has a product. The president weighs in when the two chambers try to reach agreement on a final bill.
Presto, health care reform.
Ah, but this is Congress we’re talking about. Should it be any surprise that some congressional Democrats — having suffered in the minority under a Republican president — have decided to unleash their inner liberal? No matter how badly the GOP opposition behaves — and no matter how bereft it is of ideas of its own — the Democrats seem happy to aid Republicans in their one clear goal for Obama: defeat.
The president has called for cost controls above all else in health care reform. He even wants to take Medicare spending decisions out of the political arena and put them in the hands of the docs and technical nerds, who actually understand where real cost savings can be found. But that would require Congress to relinquish some power, so it hasn’t happened.
Instead, Obama’s Democrats have so far given him higher costs (according to the Congressional Budget Office) and higher taxes. Or, in technical parlance, the same-old, same-old.
But she thinks Obama deserves some of the blame if health care fizzles — particularly since the issue has been nearly an impossible one to solve for years:
The trouble for Obama is that he’s getting tethered to some of the bad ideas the Democrats propose because he hasn’t denounced them. We know that he’s cool and patient, but maybe his drooping recent poll numbers will cause him to start drawing some lines in the sand. Americans still like their new president, but they’re clearly wondering why he has let congressional Democrats inhabit his body.
In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, for instance, approval of his handling of health care has slid from 57 percent to 49 percent since April. And the Democrats’ foray into taxing the rich hasn’t done Obama any favors, either: Just one month ago, voters earning more than $50,000 liked Obama more than the GOP on health care by a 2-1 margin.
Today, those voters are evenly split. And independent voters — the key to Obama’s electoral success — are leaving the flock. In April, 57 percent of independents approved his handling of health care; that has now dipped to 44 percent, and 49 percent disapprove.
As she notes, Obama often talks about eschewing petty bickering — which he means partisan bickering. But his big task is to try and control it in his own party.
In reality, those of us who are increasingly weary of watching the partisan and intraparty wars have to conclude this:
(1)When Republicans are in power by and large their party members are more cohesive and work in conjunction with their party leader if he is in the White House. GOPers often take direction from above (the White House) The Republicans under Bush almost resembled a parliamentary party.
(2)Democrats have a problem with intra party bickering, overreaching and acting like sugar-deprived kids unleashed in a candy shop when they get into power. Democrats resist direction from above. One way of looking at it, is that they insist on reflecting their constituencies. The other is that they try to make up for lost time — coming into office and trying to shove through old Things To Do Lists that they never got around to containing approaches to policies that some in America’s middle reject and would have rejected by voting against the Ds if they knew they would be Topic A once the Demmies got into power.
The key issue always has been whether Obama could carve out and consolidate America’s middle, creating a lasting coalition that could give him sustained support in office and for his party in elections.
Will the Obama era be yet one more instance of the Democratic party not just grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory — but greedily grabbing off the whole jaw as well as America’s middle watches in shock?
FOOTNOTE: Obama has a press conference coming up. He has usually slated these during times when it seemed as if he needed to fight hard on an issue or if there were signs of his poll numbers slightly slipping.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.