Friday, February 5, 2010

Rahmbo?

Recently, rumors have been swirling that Rahm Emanuel has been pushing the "pare it down" option for health care reform: take the popular bits and pass them. I've pointed out why this is a bad idea previously.

For all the talk about "Rahmbo" and his hardball style, it seems to me that he is often the first person to compromise his principles in favor of getting something--anything--done. He is famously quoted in the NYT as saying "The goal isn’t to see whether I can pass this through the executive board of the Brookings Institution. I’m passing it through the United States Congress with people who represent constituents." Now, I understand that political constraints exist, and in this era of the constant filibuster requirement, they're even tougher. But this is a guy whose nickname is Rahmbo, who sent a dead fish to an enemy, who has a nameplate in his office that reads “Undersecretary for Go Fuck Yourself.” I would expect him to do more to knock heads together and force the Dems that he got elected in 2006 to vote for the President's top priorities.

The 2006 elections are another case in point. This is where his willingness to compromise arguably worked well for the Democrats. By running conservative, often pro-life, candidates in reddish districts, he was able to win historic majorities for the Dems. Even that wasn't an unqualified success. There have been mixed results from those Dems. Some (like now GOP Rep Parker Griffith) voted against all the major legislation: stimulus, health care, and cap-and-trade. Some have taken very politically risky votes, supporting Obama's efforts from very red districts. Overall, I would say it was a success.

In my opinion, that same strategy doesn't necessarily apply when working on policy. Obama would be better served by a Chief of Staff that is more willing to stand his ground on policy, and work hard to get those freaked-out Democrats to stand on principle and vote for the better policy, instead of just capitulating to the most conservative members of the Dem caucus. Rahm got them elected, he should make it clear that they were elected to govern, not cover their asses.

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