Critics who attack the president for "surrendering" to Republicans are being naïve about the difficulties of pushing policies through a divided House
Many liberals are furious with President Obama over the policies in the debt ceiling deal. But, as usual, their critique--Paul Krugman's is one example--ignores, or is naïve about, the hard realities of divided congressional politics.
When a "yes" vote was required to extend the ceiling, how should the president have negotiated with a Republican House which had been transformed by the 2010 election and which had a sizable number of ideologically driven republican members who wanted to say "no"? That is the key question.
In 2010, the Republicans, recall, gained 63 seats--the most by an opposition party in the mid-term election since 1938--with most new members sharing one idea: restrain spending. By analogy, in 1994, Republicans gained 54 seats, took back the House and made the Clinton presidency largely defensive and impotent until after the 1996 elections.
We are witnessing for the umpteenth time liberal criticism that ignores the diversity in our political system and the dispersion of power in our constitutional system. From time immemorial, Democratic presidents are harshly criticized by liberals for deviating from their "one true faith," without much regard for politics. Invariably, they say, if the president had taken a principled public position, he would have mobilized the "base" and countered the forces of darkness (i.e.those with whom they don't agree), but they don't offer a cogent political analysis. As in this case. To repeat, how should Obama have negotiated with a transformed House of Representatives when he needed their assent?