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Hullabaloo


Saturday, February 08, 2014

 
The progressive partisan strategy can work after all

by digby

So it appears that President Obama has turned the tide in the US Senate against the daft attempt to impose more sanctions during these Iran nuclear negotiations. National Journal examines how that happened:
Obama's in-person, all-hands-on-deck advocacy campaign with the Senate appears to have advanced his cause, but it's not that simple.

The president combined tangible developments abroad with fervent support from the Left, and used it to win out over a fracturing Israel lobby. In the process, he won—at least for now—a foreign policy victory just as his critics were insisting Obama's age of influence was over.

"It's a combination of one side not doing that much and the other side doing a lot. The AIPAC guys have not been calling us and usually we would be hearing from them," a Democratic Senate aide said. AIPAC is shorthand for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington's best-known pro-Israel lobby group.

Obama started by reaching out to Congress in their house and his: He sent envoys, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to Capitol Hill, and he invited key players to a White House meeting to make a case that independent Sen. Angus King of Maine labeled "incredibly powerful."

But outreach on Iran is nothing new. What is different this time is that, unlike with past rounds of sanctions against Iran where the interplay has been more theoretical, the Islamic republic is actually at the negotiating table, at least going through the motions of entertaining the dismantling of its nuclear-weapons capabilities. Tremendous skepticism remains that the talks will ultimately work—including from inside the administration—but the ongoing talks at least give concerned senators an alternative.

And then there was the resurgent progressive movement that capitalized on a war-weary public to push Democrats in Obama's direction. MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and other liberal media outlets have mobilized against Democrats who supported sanctions, accusing them of undermining Obama with warmongering and asking, "Where's the antiwar Left?"

Finally, Obama was the beneficiary of weakened opposition. The Israel lobby has succeeded in influencing Iran policy for decades, but it's currently in a state of upheaval. AIPAC has not been beating down doors canvassing Capitol Hill in a concerted campaign as it has in the past, and J Street—AIPAC's younger, rising counterweight—is making the case against sanctions.

"The bottom line is that more and more members want to give the administration the space they are asking for to try to negotiate a deal with Iran. If it doesn't work they'll begin to ratchet up the sanctions more," a former senior Democratic Senate aide said. "I believe the administration now has the space they are looking for."

Another Senate aide agreed that outside forces are making a difference.

"The president's base has gone all-in with his party, cashed in every chit possible, applied every possible pressure point on Democrats, used messaging and rhetoric that fires up the liberal base, and activated grass roots to target Democrats and make them afraid of this bill from the left," said the aide. "Unfortunately it's turned it partisan, and we'll see if Republicans will take the next step."

The administration has often cited the fact that they are unable to accomplish more progressive priorities due to certain Senate Democrats who fail to cooperate. You cannot help but wonder if they might have more success if they'd deployed this strategy before. Certainly, the outside groups wanted nothing more than to organize with the White House to put pressure on recalcitrant centrist and conservative Democrats. They just weren't given much of an opportunity. If it could be effective against the most powerful bipartisan lobby in the country, just think what it might have done on other issues.

Snarky grapes aside, I couldn't be more relived that this worked on this issue. If there's one very dangerous foreign policy issue it's Iran and if the president is able to make progress on that front it's vitally important to support him. The fact that some of these people reacted in knee-jerk fashion is a mark against them.


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