In today’s column, Dick Morris and Eileen McGann limn the major choice President Obama is about to have to make:
President Obama must now decide whether he’ll govern from the center or from the left. President Bill Clinton faced the exact same decision in 1993 – and spent years paying for it when he made the wrong choice.
They describe the consequences of making the wrong choice:
Clinton chose to stay within his own party. He didn’t dare cross the various left-wing interest groups, each insisting on its own piece of the spending pie. And he worried about trying to appease the GOP but not getting enough votes on the right to offset the ones he’d lose on the left.
The results are predictable if Obama follows Clinton’s course: The stimulus package will most likely be defeated. It will grow more unpopular every day as voters crack it open to see the pork spending inside.
Americans just don’t buy the idea (nor did they in 1993) that spending on government programs is the way to end a recession. Tax cuts, maybe, spending never.
If Obama moves to the center, courting Republican votes, he’ll lose Democratic support – he’ll alienate his party and won’t be able to count on it down the line.
And they provide helpful advice:
So what should Obama do? He should move to the center. To ostracize the Republicans will force him to depend upon an ever more liberal group of Democrats, pushing him further and further to the left.
In 1995, Clinton told me: “I had moved so far to the left I didn’t recognize myself.” With each lurch to the left, Obama will lose popularity – and his narrowing political horizon will erode his capacity to govern.
If Obama instead uses his popularity to force his party to accommodate enough Republicans to govern from the center, he’ll have a successful presidency. The logic of bipartisanship will lead him to make decisions that are popular with the voters as a whole, even if they strain his support on the left.
If he chooses wrong, he’ll wind up where Clinton did in 1994, losing Congress and his popularity.