American political psychology goes something like this: "Liberals" love telling themselves that they’re losing—that they’re idealistic underdogs doing battle with the reactionary forces of wealth and corruption. “Conservatives,” on the other hand, always imagine that they’re winning—that their views express the Will of the People and that everyone would like them if only given the chance get to know them better.
Whatever the case, Red and Blue played their parts today as Obama announced an extension of Bush’s income tax cuts and the lowering of the payroll tax (which funds the hopelessly bankrupt social security program.)
Again, both are wrong.
The Grover wing of the conservative movement, which values tax cuts über alles, will be satisfied; Boehner, Cantor & Co. will act like they’re in charge in Washington; and FOX News watchers will be told of the great blow they’ve just dealt to the “far Left.”
In reality, Obama has retreated in a battle he’s quite willing to lose. He promised not to raise taxes while campaigning and either believes that “deficits don’t matter” or else that his successors will have to reckon with the consequences of massive borrowing and money printing. (He’s not unlike the rest of Washington in this regard.)
Far, far more meaningful to Obama and his allies is what he got in return—yet another extension of unemployment payments, a step closer to a de facto guaranteed national income. And there’s reason to believe that this is not all Obama has secured in the bargain…
The conservative movement’s leadership can barely bring itself to oppose amnesty; war in the Middle East and tax cuts for the wealthy remain its only reliable and defining shibboleths. If Obama has just allowed the GOP fuddy-duddies to win on these fronts—and in return been granted the ability to reconstitute the nation ethnically—then he should count this as a bold political victory.