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Is Triangulation the Only Strategy Option

November 30, 2010

Now that the midterms are over, everyone is waiting for Barak Obama to just move to the center like Bill Clinton did and get it all over with.  Here’s an example from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air this morning.  Mentioning the Pay Freeze announcement from yesterday, he wonders if this is the start of a move to the center.

Yesterday, though, Obama adopted one of the least painful demands for fiscal discipline from the GOP in announcing a pay freeze for non-military federal workers.  Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman argue in Politico that this demonstrates Obama’s intent to execute a Clintonian triangulation strategy over the next two years:

The Politico article is worth a read, by the way.  Ed’s conclusion is that this is just a quick painkiller, and that he’s not interested in moving more center.

Obama hasn’t yet had to deal with serious disapproval from the unions, either.  They’re blasting him for merely freezing wages, not reductions in force.  It’s a warning shot to go no further.  Bill Clinton, on the other hand, actually broke hard with the Left over welfare reform to earn some stripes as a centrist.  Will Obama show that kind of courage on serious cuts in government and entitlements, especially when his base is the only support he has at this point in his term?  It’s possible, but so far in his term Obama has shown no such fortitude.

While I’m definately right of center on my fiscal opinions, I don’t necessarily think that triangulation is the only successful strategy that the president has at his disposal.  In his first two years, he let a strongly left-leaning congress drive a set of laws, guided by his administrative support.  These laws fundamentally reshaped the entitlements that the government delivers to the people.  That strategy didn’t work for congress, but what’s to say that it didn’t work for the president?  He still has his new shiny healthcare projects, money to spend from stimulus, and now he has a congress that will be more combative and will move to the center on its own.

What’s to say that a strategy of sticking with his strong base isn’t a positive one in his mind?  By playing the “people” (at least the ones he trusts) off the center-leaning congress and forcing congress to fight the battles internally, he can potentially be a peacemaker for new recovery efforts while still sticking to the principles that he feels will get him re-elected.  Yes, the Clinton administration chose to tack to the center, but that was because they had not accomplished anything that would have given them a beachhead on the left from which to work.

I’m not saying one strategy will be successful over another, and I’m definately interested in seeing how this goes and the results in two years.  Mainly, though, I want to see the environment and the actions that result, becuase that’s where the real strategic direction will vector.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 1, 2010 11:44 am

    I don’t think he is interested in moving to the center — nor does he feel any strong compulsion to do so. And this seems to be true of the larger Left as well — as it looks like we will enter the 2012 elections with Obama/Pelosi/Reid still the focus of attention. Under the circumstances, that’s pretty amazing.

    I do expect him to use a Clinton trick from 1995-96, though: Fight everything the Republicans want to do, but when it succeeds take credit for it.

    It got him re-elected in 1996, despite being convinced that this was impossible in 1995. Hence the whole ChinaGate business.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

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