Recently, Rachel Maddow had as her guest David Axelrod, one of the chief advisers and architects of the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012.
The subject was President Barack Obama’s budget, and because of the cuts proposed to Social Security and Medicare, Maddow basically was asking Axelrod how the president could betray his liberal base. This in spite of the fact that the proposal also included tax hikes on the rich, which Republicans in Congress are highly unlikely to agree to. In other words, a “balanced approach” where one would not happen without the other.
Rachel Maddow is a fine journalist, who I do indeed admire, accusing the president of wanting to pick a fight with his base over Social Security and Medicare as a way of proving to Republicans he can row against the liberal tide is absurd.
The president, since he took office has taken on the very social and economic issues that liberals consider vital in creating a society that is more progressive. There was the Lilly Ledbetter Act to help insure equal pay for women in the work place, gays in the military and, since last year, gay marriage. Immigration reform, the economic stimulus, and, the icing on the cake, health care. All of these issues bring vehement rebuttal from Republicans and the right wing with some accusing Obama of being the most liberal president since Franklin Roosevelt.
Now, after five years of attempting to work with some of the most intransigent congressional members, whose allegiance is to God and tea party rather then country, Obama has put forth a budget (he admits is not ideal) to try and bring compromise. It very well may prove futile but in his usual pragmatic style, Obama sticks with the phrase he used back in 2009 during the health care debate: “Do not make the perfect the enemy of the good.”
In the interview, Axelrod tried to show how a paradigm of progressive realism was necessary if the president had any chance of moving this country forward when it came to the economy. But Maddow would have none of it, and her example of raising the payroll tax maximum as a way to increase the solvency of Social Security, while perfectly reasonable, is hardly realistic when you are dealing with Grover Norquist zombies.
The fate of social programs designed to help the elderly, especially those who struggle to get by, will only remain intact if Democrats can find subtle changes to their structure now, rather than suffer the possibly draconian cuts Republicans will seek if Social Security and Medicare become more susceptible in the future – something we all must face, for as Axelrod pointed out, a baby boomer retires every minute of every day in today’s America.
We chase our own tail if we handcuff Obama from any political maneuvering and we exhibit little trust in him if we are ready to accuse him or threaten to pull our support every time he turns a little more to the center as part of a longer term strategy.
This is not Obama’s first dance with the devil and we should not be so anxious to leave the party with someone else just yet.