Debt Ceiling Talks: Obama's Wise Decision to Stay Moderate

With the dust now settling over Washington and the debt crisis finally pacified, we can determine just who “won” this debt debate and who got the short end of the political stick. 

With their ability to strike a deal (with just a few hours to spare), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and President Barack Obama showed the nation that they can lead on fiscal issues. 

Props must also be given to the Tea Party; even with their relatively few numbers, they were still able to drive the debate and make both parties squeamish. It seems as though most political figures have reason to celebrate this historic compromise. 

However, the losers of this whole process are liberal Democrats. The fact that Obama put entitlements on the table, without raising taxes on the rich and corporations, made many liberals in Congress and across America take a collective groan of disapproval. This growing anger opens the door for the possibility liberals may abandon Obama in 2012. 

Although the loss of the base may seem like a politician’s nightmare, in this case, Obama should not fret about losing the votes of liberal democrats for two reasons: first, because liberals will never stay home on election day and allow a Republican to be elected; and second, in the grand scheme of things, their votes won’t determine the course of the election because elections are determined by middle-of-the road voters, not hardcore partisans on either side.  

After Obama clinched the nomination in 2008, it was widely thought that liberal democrats who had supported Clinton would desert en masse to the McCain camp; but this never happened. They stayed loyal to their liberal roots and voted for Obama. Although liberals may not hold Obama in the same esteem as they once did, there is no way they will be willing to stay home on election and allow Mitt Romney or Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) become the 45th president.

Another important factor to consider is how elections actually transpire. Moderate, swing voters, not partisans, determine elections. Bleeding heart liberals will typically vote democratic and diehard conservatives will logically vote republican. Obama and his GOP rival will need to convince the Philadelphia suburban soccer-mom and the Ohio small businessman why they should be elected. Even with the loss of some liberal votes, Obama can more than make up for them with swing independent votes.

It is understandable why liberals are pretty angry at the final debt ceiling compromise and for the most part, they never seemed to be a factor at the negotiation table. But Obama did the right thing risking his standing with liberals in order to strike a compromise. Even though conservatives drove the debate, Obama can still campaign on being able to strike a deal, even if it means accepting provisions he doesn’t like in order to do what is best for the country. This will score him major points with moderate voters, which is more critical to his re-election efforts than gaining the votes of the liberal wing of his party.

Photo Credit: Beth Rankin

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Tyler Kuhn

My name is Tyler Kuhn and I am a member of the class of 2014 at Dartmouth College. I am double major in government (with a concentration in American politics) and history (with a concentration in the history of warfare). I am a lifelong resident of a small town in Ohio (Hudson). My primary political interest are the deficit, the budget, congressional politics and state / federal elections. For me, the battle over the deficit and the budget are fascinating because I believe they will be the defining issues of this political generation. Additionally, I enjoy reading about the interworkings of Capital Hill and elections because policy battles are won and loss in those arenas. Also, I served as a congressional page on the floor of the House of Representatives in the 110th Congress.

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