Is the Obama Campaign's Strategy to Win Independents Foolish?
Greg Sargent has written a good analysis of President Obama's negotiating strategy. Basically, it's a re-election strategy --- they are trying to recapture Independents who they believe have deserted them because they have failed to fulfil their promise to "change the ways of Washington." Evidently they believe that Independents care nothing for the substance of policy but are deeply concerned about political atmospherics:
It seems clear that Obama and his advisers think laying down a firm marker — playing the game the way Republicans do — makes him sound like just another Washington politician. Saying “no,” as Krugman puts it, risks miring Obama in the same mud as all the rest of the partisan mud-slingers on both sides. The health care wars left Obama splattered with that mud. Signaling openness to compromise at the outset while articulating general principles as opposed to bottom lines — whatever it does for the Dems’ negotiating position — is central to Obama’s political identity and is the best way to recapture the aura that propelled him into the White House in the first place. It might be called “Beer Summit-ism”
I’m not endorsing this view. I’m just reminding folks that there isn’t any big mystery here. This is who Obama is.
Considering the field he's facing, Obama will very likely win regardless of any of this so it will be impossible to disprove the theory. But color me skeptical that anyone, Independents included, judge a president running for re-election on something like this when the country is still so stressed by fundamental financial challenges and long term angst about rapid social and cultural change.
Moreover, I think the Republicans will make damned sure that nobody labors under the impression that Obama has brokered a truce in the partisan wars. As Greg has pointed out many times, when you promise to bind up the nation's wounds but the other side keeps ripping off the bandage and rubbing salt in them, people don't blame the rippers, they blame the person who failed to fulfill his promise.
I think Greg may be right about the campaign strategy. But at this point I think we also have to assume that the policy outcomes that are precipitated by the electoral strategy are also ones with which the president feels perfectly comfortable. But the political ramifications of it are fairly extreme for liberalism.
As I said, he's very likely to win, and in America the winner gets the privilege of interpreting the meaning of his or her win. So I assume that this strategy will be validated with a Democratic win in 2012. Whether or not it would work in a different field will have to be tested by someone else.