It’s been said before but we’ll say it again: Democrats — and Barack Obama in particular — were out-negotiated, and, frankly, humiliated by the debt ceiling negotiations, regardless of the eventual outcome of the deal we hear is near.
Obama’s numbers had bounced back in the wake of his taking out Osama bin Laden in May, but as soon as the goalposts were planted (and then pushed Right time and again as “negotiations” went on) on the debt ceiling hike, Democrats started to lose faith — and Obama lost stature.
That a Democratic President and Senate would allow a bill to essentially be dictated by the whims of the freshman Republican caucus in the House — and then improved slightly by the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate so the ceiling is raised through 2012, the most minor of concessions — was not inevitable.
Neither, though, was the extent to which rejecting all economic forecasters and independent experts and concluding that it’s no big deal if the debt ceiling is reached — as many Republicans in the House have — became a legitimate position in this debate, with presidential contenders like Michele Bachmann laying out lines in the sand. But as Greg Sargent at The Plum Line notes, this is a major Republican victory:
Anything can happen, but it apppears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return.
Not only that, but Republicans — in perhaps the most remarkable example of political up-is-downism in recent memory — cast their willingness to dangle the threat of national crisis as a brave and heroic effort they’d undertaken on behalf of the national interest. Only the threat of national crisis could force the immediate spending cuts supposedly necessary to prevent a far more epic crisis later.
The transactional left — from newcomers like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to the Congressional Progressive Caucus — is not happy. From the PCCC’s Stephanie Taylor:
“Seeing a Democratic president take taxing the rich off the table and instead push a deal that will lead to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefit cuts is like entering a bizarre parallel universe — one with horrific consequences for middle-class families. This deal is the exact opposite of what the majority of Americans support, and all Democrats in Congress should oppose it. The middle class has sacrificed enough. We need jobs, not cuts, to get the economy moving again.”
And CPC chair Raúl Grijalva added Sunday:
“This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it. Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage.”
With reports that a mere half of House Republicans are even possible votes for this “compromise,” many House Dems will have to get on board. It’s up to Minority Leader Pelosi — and perhaps more so, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer — to make this happen.