EJ Dionne thinks that Democrats should be wary of getting too cocky because the Obama lead is fragile and the Republicans might just decide to be sane before the election:
[T]he GOP’s self-correction in Virginia is also a warning for Democrats. Republicans, now aware that they are on a losing track, may begin to engineer a series of course changes. The fact that House Republicans reached agreement with the president to continue the payroll tax holiday is the clearest sign that the party realizes how a far more assertive Obama is dangerous to them in a way that the conciliatory Obama of last year’s debt-ceiling battle was not.
That’s interesting in two respects. The first is that he thinks “the Republicans” have the capability of changing course, which would mean they are not ideologues and zealots, they have just been being strategically stupid. It’s certainly possible, but I’ve had the feeling numerous times over the past couple of years that the leadership would have very much liked to take yes for an answer, but couldn’t get the votes. So, I think it’s debatable whether or not that’s a reasonable proposition.
What he says about Obama being dangerous when he’s being assertive is more intriguing. I’m one of those who think that the electorate is already polarized so there’s nothing to be gained by trying to split the difference or appeal across party lines. But EJ Dionne is the one who recently took the president to task for being “assertive” about the contraception requirement. Maybe it was a sophisticated feint of some sort, but it certainly sounded as if he truly felt the President should have been “conciliatory”.
Dionne is normally one of the good guys and just seems to have a blind spot when it comes to this Catholic issue, so I’m not going to hold it against him. But generally speaking, the Democratic Villagers have insisted that Obama should be conciliatory and bipartisan, which ended up moving the goalposts substantially to the right over the past four years. I suspect that was fine with them in terms of Obama, but now they are looking at a GOP that’s certifiably nuts, having been encouraged to pull so hard from the right that they’ve fallen over the cliff.
I’m still not entirely sure why it took the administration so long to recognize that the Republicans were going to be a totally obstructionist opposition (or realize that they could benefit from being in opposition to them.) But I can’t for the life of me understand why the Very Serious Political People didn’t see it. One can only assume they just didn’t want to. Indeed, if you look at David’s post below about the nauseating piece in today’s New York Times hitting Obama for failing to fully enact the GOP agenda, you can see that the pundit class and mainstream journalism remains a funadamental part of our problem.