First, President Obama storms into the White House on a sea of “Hope, Change, and Yes We Can!” Then, he gets to work on the economic recovery, leaving most of that issue to Tim Geithner. On health care, he assembles one of the best teams of advisors imaginable to help him draft some broad principles for reform, then–learning from Bill Clinton’s failure–turns the whole thing over to Congress.
As the Congressional process flounders, leading into an unforgettable August of town hall debacles, he gets criticized for not doing enough to lead on health care. So, as soon as Congress comes back from its recess, the President delivers a powerful speech to a joint session of Congress, and via television, the American viewing public. In his speech he does two things: he outlines a much more specific plan for health reform–not quite a bill, but more detailed than the previous broad principles, and he makes it clear to the right that he is open to having serious discussions to address any legitimate concerns they might have. In other words, he expressed a willingness to compromise.
Now, that’s in keeping with the President’s campaign pledge to move past traditional, divisive, partisan Washington politics. Republicans didn’t budge in August. The progressive base began to resent the left for “selling out” its values by continuing to compromise while getting nothing in return from the right.
Here’s the thing, though. Obama’s political strategy looks to be a win-win. Either Obama and the Dems get a win by passing health reform, or they get a win by painting the Republicans as the obstructionist party of an old, do-nothing Washington. In fact, Sen. Harry Reid’s doing his part to demonstrate just how unwilling the right is to get to work on the Hill. Plus, the nature of their resistance (e.g., death panels) makes the GOP look a little bit unstable–if health care reform doesn’t pass, things are only going to get worse. Combine those new facts with footage of the crazies from the town halls, and you have some powerful campaign advertising for years to come.