By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
This week, the Obama team is launching a grass-roots campaign to build public support for the President's $3.5 trillion federal budget. This morning's Washington Post reports that the effort will be run out of the Democratic National Committee and will call on supporters "to help the President win the debate between those who marched in lockstep with the failed Bush economic policies and now have no new ideas versus the Obama agenda which will help us manage the short term economic crisis and puts us on the path to long term prosperity."
This is the same budget that was drafted by the Democrats on Capitol Hill, the one with massive spending for every item on the Democratic wish list of the last 20 years. And it was drafted by the folks with an approval rating of 37 percent (and 52 percent disapproval), according to the latest Gallup poll. And yet, although President Obama's approval rating stands at 60 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll earlier this month, more than 60 percent felt that Obama's economic policies would help the economy only a little or not at all. So they love the man, but they don't love his message.
There's an opening here for the Republicans. The reason that the president's policies are not popular with the public is because they are departure from the centrist image he projected as president-elect. There's been a hard turn to the left in the last six weeks—to the delight of the far left, but to the consternation of moderates and conservatives. There were a lot of people in the middle who were ready to "turn the page," as Obama put it, but he's making it very difficult for those folks to stay on his side, and reasonable people are starting to question his intentions.
Here's what we've seen since the swearing-in: the President unveiling the $3.5-trillion-dollar federal budget, the largest in history...signing an additional $810 billion-dollar spending bill crammed with earmarks...demonizing political opponents and blaming the Bush administration...promoting the pro-union card-check bill...and flirting with nationalizing banks, to name only a few. I think it made people in the supermarket check-out line uncomfortable to see the cover of Newsweek proclaiming, "We're All Socialists Now."
It's really quite breath-taking.
The Republicans don't necessarily need to run away from the "Party of No" moniker that the White House is trying to tag them with—if they can point out the dangers of the policies to which they are saying No. But Republicans would be wise to take it one step further. The GOP should release their own plans for free-market health care reforms, for a Republican alternative to the federal budget, for dealing with toxic assets—which may be easier said than done, I admit. But that's what the various conservative think tanks and Republican policy committees around town are supposed to be doing all day, rather than fighting over whether to fire Michael Steele.
Bold moves like those would give Republicans a leg up in showing the American people that they are not obstructionists, but rather are promoting the principles and policies they think are best for the country. It would show that Republicans are not immune to the suffering of middle-class Americans, but actually care about families struggling to make ends meet. And it might actually contribute to the bipartisan consensus in Washington that Americans want.
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