Obama Budget Plan: President in No Man's Land For Upsetting Both Sides

President Obama’s budget plan has been met with some criticism. The new budget, which has made some concessions to both Republicans and Democrats in the form of tax and spending cuts, has been widely criticized by both the far left and the right. President Obama appears to be moving towards the center with the new budget in an effort to appease members of both parties to approve the new budget in Congress. This could make Republicans look stubborn should they respond negatively to the President’s gesture of good faith.

A recent article from the Washington Post opinion section, however, has espoused the opinion that despite angering far left liberals, President Obama is acting shrewdly to ensure the passage of this budget plan. By drawing the ire of the far left he might appear as a figure willing to forego his own party to get the job done, presumably reflecting poorly on the republicans who oppose his plan and painting them as stubborn ideologues.

The article makes note of a street protest led by prominent liberals such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been quoted as saying that he and others who voted for Mr. Obama are “extremely disappointed with the president”. However, later on in this article, the author, Dana Milbank, writes that “Now Obama, by publicly defying liberals in his party, looks like the reasonable one — and Republicans look unreasonable if they continue to carp about Obama’s proposal without offering more tax hikes.”

Seems like a good plan, right? Paint the Republicans as unreasonable, united only by opposition to the president, and enhance the credibility of Mr. Obama in the public sphere, just as Bill Clinton did years ago.

There is a problem though, if this is indeed what the administration is looking for with these cuts. In order for such a move to be effective, one must assume that republican establishment believes that this image of stubbornness against President Obama would be something they are worried about in the first place. We have already seen Republicans not hesitating to criticize the budget plan; calling the social security cuts meager. Speaker John Boehner claimed that the President’s cuts are being held “hostage” by the proposed increase in taxation. The message being sent by Republicans is clear; they will fight the budget plan so long as there are any tax increases. Just as they have for the majority of President Obama’s administration, Republicans do not appear to be ready to back down from this, regardless of the light it paints them in as a party. The Republican Party, though fractured in many senses, is totally united in its opposition to anything coming out of the white house. This will not change based on a few cuts to social security.

In addition to having to deal with entrenched Republicans who appear to be ready to fight a long and dirty battle with the President over the budget, he now risks alienating key members of his own party. These members include rising star Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who wrote in response to the cuts that “Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.”

By moving to the center, President Obama is not twisting Republicans’ arms; he is alienating the people that he needs to get this budget passed. The Republican Party is ready for a dogfight, they have been throughout the president’s two terms, and they don’t much care if it makes them look bad. The Democratic Party has been historically bad at political trench warfare; it is dirty, tough, and requires immense party discipline. This is exactly what this budget fight is going to be, and the one place that you don’t want to be in trench warfare is exactly where the president is headed: in No Man's Land, taking shrapnel from everyone.