Monday, February 13, 2012

Obama, a Democratic culture warrior who´s unwilling to fight the Republicans on birth control

It was always a bad sign that Andrew Sullivan started finding things to like about President Obama. In a new piece, He praises Obama for the brilliance of his handling of the birth control issue the last couple of weeks, How Obama Set a Contraception Trap for the Right The Daily Beast 02/13/2012

I´ve never been impressed with the 12-dimensional chess argument about Obama´s approach to political issues as President. It seems to me that he actually believed and even now still believes that he can achieve some post-partisan state of happy cooperation with Republicans.

And this was a classic example of how it plays out in practice. He took a straightforward position that the Democratic base liked: women´s health vs. fundi nonsense. He let his base imagine for a few days that he might actually stand up for his own position. Then he made a compromise with people who are his bitter enemies and will continue to be. His compromise still provides the health coverage, but it´s harder to explain. The Republicans see that he´s willing to have himself slapped around again, so they escalate their hissy fit over the issue. Obama wins no votes from the compromise, because no Catholic who would even remotely consider voting for the atheist Marxist Kenyan Muslim President takes the Church´s position on birth control seriously. (I´m a convert, not a cradle Catholic, but in 24 years of being one, I literally don´t remember hearing even one single Catholic say they believed in the Church´s position against birth control.) Meanwhile, his base is left wondering what he´s going to compromise away on this issue this week.

Worst of all, Obama embraced the ¨conscience objection¨ on the issue in explaining why he compromised. (I object to having a dime of my tax money going to support the Guantanamo Gulag, so when am I going to get a tax break for *my* Catholic Christian conscience on that issue?) And this is on on a regulation where Obama has the power to act without Congress´approval. How hard will he really fight for his positions that require Congress? That´s what independent voters will ask. And the polls showed after last year´s post-partisan fiasco in which Obama offered to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, his letting himself be bullied by the instransigent Republicans hurt him most among independents.

Sullivan focuses on the fact that a pro-women´s health position is far more popular among voters than the anti-birth-control position. He predicts, ¨This will indeed become a wedge issue—between the bishops and their flocks. Yes, finally a social wedge issue that helps Democrats, not Republicans.¨

But the Republicans have known for decades that their positions on women´s health and women´s rights generally was less popular than the Democrats´. What they were doing here was punking Obama yet again. And, yet again, he´s letting them get away with it. For him to make that an effective wedge issue that works for him politically, he would need to emphasize his difference from the Republicans on the issue. Instead, he´s trying to minimize them.

Obama just proposed a new budget. Karoli at C&L writes about how progressive it is: White House Unveils Budget For The 99% 02/13/2012. She writes, ¨It's unlikely that any of this will actually pass with this Congress, but it sharply defines the differences in values between today's Republican party and the Democrats.¨

But if he´s going to start compromising the minute Republicans say ¨Boo!¨, how is he going to be able to draw an effective contrast with them over his budget, no matter how popular the proposal itself sounds?

It doesn´t sound like an awesome political strategy to me: ¨I support women´s health against woman-hating fundamentalists, and I´ll fight for it; unless, you know, some woman-hating fundamentalist criticizes my position or something.¨

And on this issue, it´s not abortion we´re talking about, it´s birth control. And the Democratic President is compromising on that now, too. I really don´t like the direction this is going.

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