Sometimes, being a new-school leader requires making both political opponents and supporters uncomfortable and upset in the process of breaking the mold to benefit the future.
If that holds true, President Obama — in angering the political left by going too far (in their opinion) in compromising on the Bush-era tax rates and in angering the political right by not quite going far enough (by not making the rates permanent) — may have shown himself to be a new-school leader at a time when his promise of overcoming the nation’s divisions has been, to date, woefully unfulfilled.
By negotiating with Republicans, President Obama may have taken the first step in becoming a post-partisan president — even if that post-partisanship is two years past due.
After all, the president’s willingness to push his fellow Democrats to work with Republicans was not evident during the debates over the stimulus package, the auto bailouts, or healthcare reform. That failure to act in a responsible and balanced fashion has contributed to the country’s heightened political tensions. Not that the president initiated the animosity between the GOP and the Democrats. That frustration has been there for years, mutual feelings that reached a new level over the past ten years, starting with the Bush-Gore presidential election. However, Mr. Obama — as a candidate in 2008 — campaigned as a leader who would unite America.
It’s ironic that the parties have united now — in their common frustration with the Obama tax compromise of 2010. America may be able to unite behind the president if his compromise helps reignite the American economy.
Liberals such as WVON alumnus Roland Martin were disappointed with the president’s negotiated framework for a deal, stating that Mr. Obama folded too soon, leaving Democrats in a lurch where there would be little wiggle room before the lame duck session ended. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews went as far to say that the Democrats — the president included — should have held their ground, and then held a vote on the tax cuts on Christmas Eve, forcing the Republicans to acquiesce to the will of Pelosi and Reid one more time before the dynamic within Congress changes significantly. But their complaints are both shortsighted and misguided, contributing to the political problems that are holding our country back. Knowing that Democrats’ power within the House of Representatives is rapidly fading as the 111th Congress’ tenure closes, President Obama made several shrewd maneuvers that baked into the tax compromise unemployment extensions and other assurances that provide the little-found stability many Americans need in this hard-pressed time. Counting on Republicans to back down and vote for Pelosi/Reid-led tax legislation and approve unemployment extensions during a late-hour vote — knowing that the GOP will take over the House in January — would have been a politically-fatal flaw, especially considering Republicans’ success at the “wait-and-blame” strategy they have been pursuing since 2009.