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The Divide Between Obama and His Base Widens

Count me among those who believe the agreement by President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts to be a huge substantive (and political) victory for the GOP. There is, I think, one fact above all others that places things in their proper perspective: arguably the most liberal president in American history, still with huge majorities in the House and Senate, agreed to extend tax cuts that he and his party have been hammering for the better part of a decade.

The tectonic plates shifted yesterday — and they shifted as a result of the epic midterm election. After two years of activist government unseen since the middle part of the 1960s, things are going in the opposite direction.

The president knows it, and he’s clearly unhappy about it. Mr. Obama was clearly annoyed with the deal he felt forced to sign, going out of his way to express his distaste for allowing tax cuts to go to high-wage earners. And of course, there was the requisite Obama vanity and self-conceit. The lack of a deal on tax cuts would “be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts,” Obama informed us. “I am not willing to let that happen. … I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

Leave it to Barack the Great to once again hover high above politics as usual, the adult among the clamoring children, the voice of reason against the unruly political mob.

The president’s remarks were clearly aimed at his liberal base, which is terribly unhappy with him (see these stories here and here). In fact, according to the Hill, “House Democrats signaled Monday they will fight the tax-cut deal President Obama announced a day earlier with Republicans.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a post on Twitter, made clear her unhappiness with the tax deal.

This is very dangerous territory Mr. Obama is now in. He hasn’t done nearly enough to win back the confidence of independents — but he’s done more than enough to outrage his political base. We might even have the extraordinary situation of Speaker Pelosi leading the campaign to defeat a deal blessed by the president.

Obama set astronomical expectations when he ran, and so the disappointment among his core supporters is especially acute. Some on the left are eager to distance themselves from what they perceive to be a failing presidency. And we are in the midst of the weakest recovery since the government started keeping unemployment statistics. The Obama presidency is battered and adrift right now. The man who was supposed to revivify liberalism and the Democratic Party is overseeing their partial collapse. It is an amazing thing to witness.



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