Yesterday, I saw that Scott Lemieux wrote an article, Neoliberal Stooge Proves Democratic Party Needs to Be Blown Up. I didn’t finish reading it. Partly, that is just because I don’t think Lemieux does a very good job of sarcasm. But mostly, it was the line where he said that Obama was “proposing Social Security cuts attached to conditions Republicans would never accept.” Oh my! Grand Bargain apologetics again!
Then this morning, at New Republic, he wrote a similar article, Why Obama Turned Left on Social Security. It even uses the same words, “Tying ‘chained-CPI’ Social Security cuts to upper-class tax cuts no Republican Congress was ever going to pass was an indication that Obama was not actually trying to cut Social Security.” So Obama wasn’t for the Grand Bargain. He wanted to leave Social Security alone. But now he is in favor of increasing Social Security benefits because the party has moved to the left. Uh, not really.
But what really set me off was a follow-up article by Martin Longman, Obama Gamed the Grand Bargain Correctly. He wrote:
There’s another chestnut of Obama apologists everywhere. You see, Obama never fails; he is only failed by the political environment. Everyone knows that Obama was always for same sex marriage. It was just that he couldn’t come out in favor of it until it was politically safe because Obama is such a courageous political leader! And in this case, he had to act like the “adult in the room” with the Grand Bargain or else his friends in the mainstream media would have thought that he was just another politician with, you know, principles.
This was supposedly Obama’s cunning plan — or as Lemieux puts it, his “twenty-billion-dimensional-chess.” But what did he actually get? Did the media turn on the Republicans? Maybe I wan’t paying attention, but I didn’t see the media change its coverage in the least. It is always the same thing: there are the Democrats, there are the Republicans, and there is the truth, smack dab in the middle. As it is, the media is running to normalize Donald Trump. The truth is not something that the mainstream media uncover; it is something they define based upon where the two parties stand at any point. And Obama knows that.
What really bugs me is all this business of trying to find reasons why Obama’s policies are so much more conservative than liberals thought they ought to be. One of Obama’s more compelling personal traits is his honesty. When he said he was basically a Blue Dog Democrat, he wasn’t saying it to trick people; he was saying it because it was the truth. And when he pushed the Grand Bargain for years, it wasn’t because he knew that the Republicans wouldn’t take it. It was because he thought it would make him a bipartisan hero in the same way that welfare “reform” did for Bill Clinton.
Lemieux claims that Obama’s recent change is an indication that political change comes from the bottom up. Then why did Obama push for the Grand Bargain? There was no pressure for that — even among Republican voters. That’s why Lemieux and Longman have to make this ridiculous argument that Obama wasn’t really for the Grand Bargain. And had Bill Clinton’s welfare “reform” fallen through, they would say the same thing about that.
But there is extra pressure on Obama regarding Social Security — it comes from Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And good for her! But I give Obama no credit at all. When it comes to the Grand Bargain, Obama would have gladly sold us down the river in exchange for the cheers of the Thomas Friedman crowd.