Hi, folks, I'm back -- thank you, Tom, Dog, Crank, Bulworth, and aimai, for being here when I was otherwise occupied.
So I return to a fiscal cliff deal that got lefties grumbling, as Peter Baker of The New York Times notes:
Mr. Obama got most of what he sought in the agreement, he found himself under withering criticism from some in his liberal base who accused him of caving in to Republicans by not taxing the rich more. Just as Speaker John A. Boehner has been under pressure from his right, Mr. Obama faces a virtual Tea Party of the left that sees his compromise as capitulation.Well, the main difference is that angry lefties have no army. Far-right Republicanism is mainstream Republicanism in much of the country; in many congressional districts, it's a worldview shared, or at least accepted, by the majority of Republican voters -- and in many of these districts (in some entire states, for that matter) even swing voters will go along if a crazy Republican takes out a real or alleged RINO and wins the GOP nomination, because the messaging of the far right is so pervasive, and so widely accepted from the right to the center. (Multiple billionaire-funded propaganda streams, Fox News, and the total takeover of the AM radio dial will do that for you.)
The main difference is that in the Obama era, the Democratic establishment has been less influenced, or intimidated, by the left than the Republican establishment has been by the right. Liberals have not mounted sustained primary challenges to take out wayward incumbents the way conservatives have.
Far-right voters have also seemed willing to burn the whole country to the ground, in a way that comparable numbers of lefty voters haven't. I've called righties nihilists at times, but the real problem is that they think Obama is already burning the whole thing to the ground. They think his left-centrism is radical socialist totalitarianism. So they just don't imagine that anything they might do could be worse, or more radical, than the Kenyan Muslim commie status quo.
But many Republicans, including some crazies, stepped away from the brink this time -- I know most observers assumed a capitulation was inevitable, but I was never sure, and I was surprised that the final bill got through both houses by far more than an eyelash. Maybe more Republican officeholders than I thought got the message of the November elections with regard to taxing the rich, or maybe they just feared the wrath of the business community if they blew everything up.
But if the White House conducted negotiations under the assumption that Republican intransigence might be limitless, and might be backed by Republican voters, I understand that. A lot of voters have had the right-wing purists' backs in the past. By contrast, seeming to be reasonable is what gets you elected as a Democrat in most of the country. So while I can find fault with the deal -- what sticks in my craw is the end of the payroll tax cut, which really does screw a lot of ordinary non-rich Americans -- I understand why the White House didn't think it held all the cards. The other side's purists outnumber ours.