[Cross posted at Yglesias' House]
At the risk of sounding like a centrist morally bankrupt appeaser (and I hope a cursory reading of my work over the years would dispel the notion that I’m USUALLY singing such a tune, regardless of what you think of my POV at this instant) I think this is one of those moments where we’re all getting a bit hot and bothered because we’re refusing to see this in terms of political interests rather than policy principles.
I was as disappointed as anyone to see that so much aid to the states had been cut. Just about all liberals seem to be in agreement that such a thing makes no sense. I am in wholehearted agreement with that assessment, and I also share a lot of the angst over some of the smaller cuts that were made as well.
But the reality is that Senate rules and recent Senate practices make it the case that a committed minority of at least 40 Senators can block legislation. The current GOP Senate caucus constitutes such a committed minority.
What the Democrats did in this case was allow a detachment of the Democratic caucus made up of members who, for whatever reason, don’t like the stimulus that much but who are willing to go along with it if they get something out of it to get together with a detachment of Republicans who don’t like the stimulus that much but who are willing to go along with it if they get something out of it.
What I’m hearing from a lot of liberals is that the Democrats should instead have forced the GOP into a game of chicken where we would have risked deep-sixing this stimulus bill on the theory that some Republicans would cave anyway, and that if they didn’t we could try to ram it through under budget rules. That may well have worked. But we can’t know. More importantly, OBAMA can’t know. And that’s why, obviously, he’s going to prefer this shitty compromise to a coordinated PR high-wire act that could doom his presidency if it were to fail.
The bottom line is that passing this bill strengthens (in this order) Obama, wishy-washy center-right pseudodemocrats like Ben Nelson, and wishy-washy center-right Republicans like Olympia Snowe. Is that a perfect outcome, even in political terms? Hell, no. But guess what? The people who have the power to decide what happens with this bill are Obama, wishy-washy center-right pseudodemocrats like Ben Nelson, and wishy-washy center-right Republicans like Olympia Snowe.
That’s life in 2009. To change it, we need a powerful Democratic President and more and better Democrats. Full stop.
I’m all for bringing this all up again when Nelson or any of the other “moderate” Dems are running in Democratic primaries down the road. They should of course face angry Democrats in those primaries, and if the Democrats of their states are angry enough, we’ll throw them out and get some real Democrats.
But right now, at least by all appearances, THIS fight is over. And we won. Let’s act like it.