Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Dubious Benefits of Obama's Political Compromises

President Obama continues to "reach out" to conservatives and moderates. The benefits of this approach, however, are dubious at best.

Ben Nelson
Obama, for example, secured support for healthcare reform legislation from Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska by giving his state millions of dollars in Medicaid assistance. Although Nelson finally overcame his opposition to patients in insurance exchanges receiving abortion servies, Obama's outreach did not create a new partnership between the two. Instead, Nelson has announced that he will join Republicans to filibuster the nomination of Craig Becker to sit on the National Labor Relations Board.

Republicans oppose Becker's nomination solely because he is pro-labor. They have not, by contrast, opposed pro-business nominees. Instead, the opposition is purely ideological. Nelson's move will probably kill the nomination.

Joe Lieberman
After he was elected, President Obama tried to smooth things out with Senator Joe Lieberman. Many Democrats wanted to deprive Lieberman of his seniority because he endorsed and openly campaigned for John McCain during the 2008 presidential election. Despite the wishes of many Democrats, Obama stepped in to make peace and told Senate Democrats not to punish Lieberman.

Lieberman, however, recently opposed Obama's healthcare proposals. Consequently, President Obama, in a controversial move, ordered Harry Reid to drop the public plan and Medicare buy-in options from the pending legislation.

Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe
President Obama has also struggled to define pieces of his legislative agenda, including the stimulus package and healthcare reform, around the political leanings of Susan Colins and Olympia Snowe. Neither of the two Senators from Maine, however, support his healthcare agenda. Furthermore, the stimulus package would have passed without the support of Collins and Snowe, but Obama made unnecessary concessions to obtain their votes.

Republicans Generally
Most recently, Obama has tried to warm up to Republicans. He debated House Republicans at a recent retreat, and he has offered to meet with Republicans to discuss bipartisanship regarding healthcare reform -- which seems doomed after the election of Republican Scott Brown as a Senator from Massachusetts. Republicans, however, have either resisted the idea or accepted it with major caveats.

Comprising With Moderates and Conservatives, Criticizing Liberals
Although Obama continues to reach out to and to make compromises with moderates, members of his administration have harshly criticized liberals. For example, responding to progressive criticism regarding healthcare reform, senior members of Obama's staff called liberals "irrational" and "insane." Rahm Emanuel has also stated that liberal critics of moderate and conservative Democrats are "fucking retards." The White House has clearly decided to isolate its liberal critics.

Final Take
While the Obama administration criticizes its base of support, it continues to chase down the approval of moderates and conservatives. If the latter approach paid off politically, then perhaps it would make sense. But to date, the benefits of this approach are dubious at best.


cent said...

Nicely done Professor. Might I suggest a follow up piece outlining the gambits and compromises Obama has made with the Banks and Corporations that have produced similar results....

David said...

Does Nelson / Nebraska still get the support since healthcare reform didn't happen (yet)?

David said...

What sticks are available where carrots fail?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hey, David: I believe that the deal for Nebraska was inserted in the Senate bill. Unless Congress votes to pass the measure, Nebraska will not receive the extra funding.

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