Monday, January 12, 2009

Concessions... the good kind

When I came across the Huffington Post headline "Obama team offers concessions on stimulus plan", I began to get those usual "Democrats admit defeat before fight" feelings that have been so common over the past 8 years. So you can imagine my surprise when I went on to the article and read that Obama was changing the plans in response to the senate's smart criticism of the bill that we mentioned here on Friday:
President-elect Barack Obama tried Sunday to shore up support in Congress for his ambitious economic policies, with his top advisers offering concessions on his economic-stimulus proposal and preparing to detail conditions for how the incoming administration will spend the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package.

Emerging from a two-hour meeting in the Capitol with Obama advisers Lawrence Summers and Jason Furman, Senate Democrats praised the President-elect's team for agreeing to make changes to its stimulus proposal based off of concerns senators raised last week at a meeting with the president-elect’s senior aides.

The Obama team told about 35 Senate Democrats gathered at Sunday’s meeting that it would grow the size of an energy-tax incentive package and modify proposed tax credits for individuals and for businesses that hire new employees, according to meeting attendees. Also, with lawmakers raising concerns that the first half of the $700 billion of the financial rescue law was badly mismanaged, Obama’s team signaled it would lay out precisely how it would spend the second half of that package, which Congress is expected to consider as soon as this week.

“It’s very clear they’ve listened, they’ve heard and that they’re moving to respond,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Budget Committee, who questioned previously whether the tax credits in the stimulus package were enough to encourage new jobs. “It was very, very healthy. They’re not defensive, not arguing back, they’re listening, they’re attempting to hear and they’re responding.
This is great news, and it shows the power of healthy debate with an administration that's willing to listen. Pretty wild stuff.

My initial reaction to the story also took me aback. As someone who began following politics seriously around the start of the W Era, I have really only known one set of political rules and truisms.

The Republicans were ruthlessly effective at implementing their agenda. The Democrats lacked any type of leadership and folded like a house of cards at the slightest sign of a fight. And most importantly, a "compromise" or "concession" was virtually synonymous with bending over for Mr. 22 percent or the senate republicans, no matter what the issue, the stakes or electoral implications.

Maybe the first aspect of change is unlearning the habits you've picked up following politics and the democratic party during it's lowest point in history. Maybe now that there's a democratic president the senate democrats will feel free to take few more chances, pick a few fights and govern like a party that's been voted into office twice with an overwhelming majority, kind of like how Caron and Antwan change their games when a healthy Gil is in the lineup.

It really could be the dawn of a new era in so many ways (for the Democrats that is, sadly the Wizards are going to take some time). Watching Mitch McConnell on the Sunday shows looking as defeated as I've ever seen any public figure was very encouraging. The leadership in congress is critically important and has the ability to be a huge asset or a massive liability to the president elect.

During the Bush years, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were needed to fight back against a determined and well orchestrated onslaught from the Bush administration on just about every area where the government makes policy. They failed miserably.

Maybe didn't understand the stakes or underestimated their opponent's willingness to go the mat. Frankly I think they were more concerned with republicans calling them pussies than than doing what the American people elected them to do. The Republicans knew they lacked the backbone for a real fight, and they exploited this fact ruthlessly the way a good coach gives 40 touches to whoever is being "guarded" by Antwan Jamison.

The dynamics have changed, and whether the leadership's mentality has changed will be evident soon enough. Hopefully this recent back and forth is a sign of things to come. While it's important not to switch into "we have a Democratic president/congress, all will be fixed" mode, it's gonna be an important step to get out of the siege mentality we've developed over the last 8 years and get ready for some good things to happen.

Senate Democrats actually fighting for progressive reforms with the president, not only does he listen but he makes some of the changes.

Holy Crap.

For the first time since the election, it might have actually sunk in that Obama is going to be our next president.

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