If President Obama and the Democrats can’t win this budget debate, they can’t win any debate. Losing a pushover public policy battle like this one would prove that the decades-long conservative tactic of poisoning the well-- of so misinforming and discouraging the electorate, so lowering their expectations, so worrying them with vitriol and bombast that they can no longer recognize common sense when presented to them-- has worked. The game will be up; all that will be left to do is watch while the nation dissolves further into a mass of angry twitching.
But the Democrats shouldn’t lose. How do you lose when you’re suggesting that we might want to ask billionaires to kick in a few more dollars before we start dumping our grandparents out nursing home windows? How do you lose when your idea is that the sprawling behemoth of a defense department might be harboring some savings worth investigating before kicking our children out of Head Start classes? How do you lose when your argument is, “Let’s not eliminate Medicare”? How do you lose when poll after poll shows the public is already on your side: wanting the hyper rich to pay more in taxes, wanting cuts at the Pentagon, wanting to preserve services for the poor and middle class?
Of course, the Democrats-- the poor, bewildered, cringing Democrats-- can always find a way. They’ve proved time and again they can not only snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but actually scramble down victory’s throat and extract defeat from its gullet. President Obama began the process, in the worst part of a good speech that set the budget battle lines, when he said the final product would not look like his proposal. Republicans never do that. Garage sale browsers trying to lowball the purchase of a commemorative plate never do that. That’s not how you negotiate.
But never mind. This could be the tipping point. This could be the moment when the conservatives’ dark and chilly image of the future becomes sufficiently clear to the public that the Democrats can win just by showing up. Let’s just make sure they show up.