Between a Rock and Hard Place

Barack Obama finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, or should I say, between Democrats and Republicans. In an attempt to please them both he has satisfied neither.

The death of the Democratic health care reform proposals remain the prime example of the war he finds himself in. Throughout the debate Obama was attacked from his Left flank. Liberal critics such as Howard Dean who attacked the bill’s lack of a public option and went so far as to say that “I would certainly not vote for this bill if this were the final product.” Many Democrats also took hard line stances. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said that,

“[i]t’s time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares.”

This represents the fundamental problem Obama and Democrats find themselves in. As different factions of the party compromise to capture the nation’s political mood – they find their chances at reelection compromised. The question, as John Harris of Politico put it , is “WWCD: What Would Clinton Do?”

In a rare unity of interest, following the Clinton approach would be simultaneously the best thing for Barack Obama to do and the best thing that could happen for the Republican Party. After a disastrous first two years in office, in which Clinton was lambasted for a liberal agenda that included failed attempts at health care reform and gun control, he course corrected. His march toward the right was highlighted by bipartisan achievements such as welfare reform and a balanced budget and crowned with his famous line, “the era of big government is over.” In words as well as deeds, Clinton grasped the fundamental truth that this is a center-right nation.

Political Ideology But “triangulating” a path toward the middle is fraught with peril. For one, Democrats will be furious. The party would no doubt begin to share the concern of Rep. Dave Obey, who has already chastised Obama’s centrist leanings saying,

“It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense.”

Second, in the race to the middle some Democrats are going to be left behind. The right-leaning public needs someone to blame amongst a government that at present is solely represented by the Left. If the President follows Clinton towards the middle, many liberal Congressmen will lose the political cover of Obama’s name.

By shifting the target that has been firmly placed on his back, come November the firing squad of the American people will be aimed at liberal Democrats as voters wonder what the heck they’ve been doing with those huge majorities up there in Washington. If Obama decides to stay the course, the political pressure that has thus far been released in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts will be a force again in 2010. Regardless of the path chosen, someone is going to be blamed for being moderate and someone is going to be blamed as liberal.

While Obama attempts to save his presidency by gratuitously distancing himself from the far Left influences of his party, Republicans find themselves in a place of power. Even without majorities, Barack Obama will be compelled to adopt many conservative positions, or at the very least let Republicans into the room. Republicans must use this opportunity to support reforms that relieve some of the pressure faced by America’s youth – namely reform Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to slow the growth of entitlement spending. There is also no doubt that we must pass a health care reform plan that focuses on maintaining affordable health care for America’s youth as well as lowering insurance costs for families and small businesses.

Obama finds himself between a rock and a hard place. But Republicans cannot rest on the knowledge their foe is suffering, we must pick up the mantle of real reform.

– Brandon Greife