Friday, June 26, 2009

Strategist Michael A. Cohen to Dems: "No time for Caution"

As for the notion that Obama should be tied down by perceptions of what he thinks the country “can accept,” frankly this is even worse advice. As Galston notes, voters “have little confidence in government as an effective instrument of public purpose. Trust in government remains near an historic low and has not improved significantly since the beginning of Obama's presidency.”

But the way to change that perception is not to nibble around the edges, but instead move forward a piece of legislation that changes the entire political equation for Democrats: something like passing a sweeping health care package. The negative perception that voters continue to have toward government is because, as Obama suggested during the campaign, they don’t see it being responsive to their needs.

Forget the polls for just a second. In November 2008, the electorate voted not only for change, but they voted to send someone to Washington who would change the tone, bring new ideas and get things done. Passing comprehensive health care reform is the best way I can think of to not only fulfill the promise of Obama’s campaign, but also expose the rigidity of Republican opposition. If Democrats are dealing with a down economy in 2010 they will likely pay a price at the polls, but the best response to bad economic news is evidence that Congress and the President have worked to fulfill their campaign promises. As I asked a few days ago at Politico: “Would Democrats prefer to go to the voters and say, 'I shrunk the deficit' or would they rather say, ‘I passed health care legislation that improves access and care for 50 million people — and, by the way, my opponent voted against it?"

I can already imagine the likely response to my confidence: 1993 and 1994. The political path I’m advocating, of course, bears striking similarities to President Clinton’s ambitious domestic policy agenda. The critical difference, however, is the lack of confidence voters have not only in the Republican Party, but for conservatism in general. In addition, there is simply no question that the electorate trusts Obama far more than it did Clinton. I understand, Galston’s pleas for caution and no one who lived through 1993 and 1994 would ever question the dangers of overreaching. But if ever there were a time for overreaching it would be right now

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