By "dissing" liberals, Obama may have cemented his credibility with moderates – just as then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton did in 1992 when he called out black entertainer Sister Souljah for saying that “black people kill black people every day; why not have a week and kill white people,” and “if there are any good white people, I haven’t met them.”
Clinton harshly criticized her, getting him in deep trouble with Jesse Jackson and liberals in his own party. But he established his credentials with middle-of-the-road voters, the so-called “Reagan Democrats” in particular, and brought them to his side, arguably winning the election for him.
Meanwhile, liberal Democrats continued to be furious over Obama’s deal and House Democrats apparently approved a voice-vote resolution vowing to oppose it on the House floor. But that may be more about forcing Obama back to the bargaining table to put in some sweeteners than anything else. They mostly are calling for modifications in the part of the deal that exempts estates worth as much as $10 million from the inheritance tax.
While liberals are angry, those important middle-of-the-roaders are happier. Senate Democrats were more amenable to the package than House Democrats, for example.
Now, with Obama having lost the moderates to the Republicans in the recent mid-terms, he’s trying to get them back.
“If you are under fire from your own party, picking fight with some vocal liberals isn’t the worst thing he could do,” said Cook Political Report founder Charlie Cook. “I think he will be better off, because of this and freezing COLAS for federal civilian employees.”
While politicians on both extremes of the Republican, and, most significantly for Obama, Democratic parties have criticized his tax deal, it’s in the middle where they like it.
“[Senate] members are more open today as they read the analyses of this package," said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., citing particularly the extension of long-term unemployment benefits through next year and major tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Durbin said that while “I just loathe” parts of the deal, he understands what Obama is doing.
The White House kept rolling out endorsements Thursday, like that of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, one Democrat who handily won re-election last month, bucking the Republican tide. O’Malley particularly pointed to the extension of unemployment benefits.
“The President understandably felt a responsibility to protect millions of families who were about to have their life-line cut-off by House Republicans in their blind zeal to secure ever deeper and longer lasting tax cuts for millionaires,” O’Malley said in a statement released by the White House.
Obama needs to have members of the moderate electorate on his side in two years if he is to win re-election. This week’s tax deal was the first step in that journey – a “Sister Souljah moment.”
“It’s a sign that whether or not Congressional Democrats read the election results, he did,” Cook said. “He is making the kind of moves you make if you want to get re-elected. For a while I wasn’t sure they had noticed the election.”
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