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Obama's Political Concessions and Potential Gains

Much has been made in the media (or at least, the segment that I have concentrated on, that being the New York Times, BBC, and Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews's programs on MSNBC) about Obama's alleged concessions to Republicans who will later refuse to cooperate in the final legislation. The general argument here is that the President gains nothing by making these moves, and that it is therefore foolish for him to seemingly abandon some of his stated goals, which could produce a more liberal result. While I am persoanlly in favor of such an outcome, I believe that the Obama administration has taken the long view, which many critics may have missed.

By publicly reaching out to Republicans--and reminding the voter that he is doing this--while adding some of their ideas into the mix, he has not only arranged for the over-all legislation to pass, but has accomplished the following:

(1) Taken the centre, which establishes Obama--and possibly the Democrats riding on his coattails-- to be seen as the best choice for the country's moderates and independents. This strategy will either force Republicans to work with him to at least some extent, or to be seen as occupying the far right fringe--something that is not palatable to many in this voting block. Continued blatant Republican resistance could negatively effect their own hopes in both statewide and national elections. Given enough alienation, Republican incumbents could possibly stand to lose seats . Added pressure could be felt by Republican members of the House who hail from more moderate districts and, if left unheeded, could result in Democratic inroads. This is especially true if the current mood of anti-Congress, anti-Gridlock continues on into the midterms.

(2) Forced many Republicans to either support Obama's proposals (an action that could be politically hazardous, given a year of amped-up Republican rhetoric), or to come out opposing positions that they have previously taken (we are seeing the latter pointed out more and more by Rachel Maddow, who is quick to pounce on exposed targets). For this reason, Republicans will either be forced to cooperate--thus alienating their base and reducing their party's attractiveness--or to send more radical candidates to the primaries, who--if they win--could possibly lose in a quick flip of seats in the next general election.

(3) Worked with potential Republican leaders of the 2011 House (should Democrats lose their current majority), and has thereby established a rapport which may be applied to future legislative iniatives.

This is the larger picture. Obama and his team have shown themselves to be nothing, if not successful with grand strategies. They are also known for playing their cards close to the vest.


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