Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tomasky on Bipartisanship

He makes the best case I've yet seen for being of good cheer about Obama's unrewarded outreach to Republicans. Tomasky suggests that it's a strategy designed, not so much to appeal to Republican legislators (many of whom are apparently lost causes when it comes to basic rationality), but to appeal to a wide swathe of unaligned voters:

Those middle-of-the-road voters see partisan gridlock as a problem. And what do they see today if they cast their gaze in Washington's direction? They see a president trying to talk about and do something about a problem that they think is important. And they see a Republican bloc that is a living embodiment of that problem every day.

I think, then, that as regards this audience, Obama's bipartisanship is in fact working, and the polls we've seen so far support my thought. He's at an approval rating in the mid-to-high 60s. The Republicans are around 30%. To translate, 30% means that only the hard-shell GOP base is happy with the Republicans in Congress. And 66% or 69%, for a guy who got just under 53% of the vote, means that a significant chunk of people who didn't even vote for him like his approach.

In other words: bipartisanship is a strategy. It's a strategy aimed at isolating the right, and isolating the obstructionists in Congress.

Think of it as an outside-in strategy. That is: we tend to think that change starts in Washington and spreads out to the country. In fact, the opposite is more often the case. Change starts outside the Beltway, and eventually bleeds into it.

Once again, I find myself hoping that Tomasky is right—that Obama's maddening willingness to dicker with the kinds of people who made the mess we're now in is a kind of aikido strategy designed to help them make themselves irrelevant and powerless. I'll admit that karate would be more satisfying to my dark side, but if it results in these people's hands being taken off the levers of power at long last, then hey, whatever works.

And they see a Republican bloc that is a living embodiment of that problem every day.

Yes, yes they do. But this same bloc is telling them it is for *their interest* with the same ingrained "tax & spend librul" rhetoric they've used for the past 25 years or so. Now the polls do suggest that rhetoric has lost some of its effectiveness, but if people don't sense things are getting better one wonders for how long.
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