The Grand Bargain Myth?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 31 2012 @ 4:40pm

Digby challenges my belief that Obama could ever work with the GOP – even on tax reform or deficit reduction:

[W]hat's Andrew Sullivan's excuse? He's been involved in American politics for decades. Surely he saw that the modern conservative movement has become a retrograde, obscurantist, political faction that has every intention of acting out its dystopian agenda without any thought to its opposition. Indeed, politically mowing down their opposition is what animates them …The great rapprochement — like the Grand Bargain — was a pipe dream, and it was one that many, many Democratic voters enthusiastically bought into. 

But my point is that it was important to establish that as fact in the voters' minds before a liberal president could go on the offensive. Digby is viewing the GOP the way the GOP views Iran. Strike now! We know they'll never cooperate. So why bother even going through the motions? But Obama's long game requires first the out-stretched hand, then the wanton obstructionism, then the framing of the issue to Obama's advantage, then coalition building, then the end game.

This is not weakness. It is strength. And Obama has in reserve both the military option with Iran and the possibility of a brutal but empowering re-election victory against the GOP. My point is that even if the GOP were never going to cooperate an inch, better to demonstrate that and own the center, than assume that and govern out on a limb on the left.

Maybe this strategy will fail. But my point is: that is yet to be proven. What does seem to me proven is that polarization on the left is not a solution to polarization on the right. And if the country does get that polarized on both sides, the right has more voters in a center-right country. And if the strategy doesn't fail, the pragmatic reforms Obama has pressed will be much more durable because of the way in which he got us there.