Atrios and Krugman are both wondering about the emerging Democratic strategy for November. Atrios says:
So let’s say Obama’s people have correctly deduced that there’s no chance in hell of getting anything through Congress. They have two basic options. First, they could get on the teevee every day and say, “This is my plan to help. Republicans in Congress won’t pass it.” They could hold rallies in Maine. Allies could run ads. At least people would know who is for and who is against…and just what it was that people are for or against.
Option two is back off proposals you’ve previously made and have Axelrod get on the teevee and say, “there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity.”
I'm guessing this is the return of the great Democratic strategy called "keeping your powder dry" --- for 2012.
I have no idea what they’re thinking. It would be one thing if polls suggested a tolerable outcome in November, so that playing it safe could possibly make sense as a political strategy. But that’s not the way it is; and it’s hard to see what possible motivation there is for pulling punches. Going for your opponent’s capillaries when you yourself are bleeding heavily?
Indeed, I'm inclined to think the White House believes they've already lost the congress so they are cutting their losses and looking ahead two years. And that means they would very much like to take a sharp turn to the right, particularly with talk of deficits and spending, in anticipation of the predictable Village narrative that they lost because they were too liberal. (All modern Democratic presidents do this, by the way, regardless of whether or not they lost their majority in the midterms. "Center-right" nation dontcha know.)
However if they do pursue a rhetorical conservative political strategy, they will be stuck with failed conservative policies, which they know are not going to be popular with anyone but the wealthy. It's a conundrum, at least when it comes to pesky voters (as opposed to pesky major donors.)
This is one of those gut check moments. The administration can make a real argument as Atrios suggests and do the right thing for themselves and the country or they can follow the demagogues, the Masters of the Universe and the Villagers and keep hoping that everything magically turns around so all those vaunted, precious Independents will come back in 2012 without them having to take any risks to Obama's personal popularity. (The liberals are expected to fall in line in the face of the inevitable GOP freakshow.) If Axelrod is the spokesman for the political team in the White House, and I assume he is, it appears they've decided to take the second course.
The congressional Dems are on their own for this one. "The legacy" is on the line and as with all recent presidents, that takes precedence over anything else.