The Republicans in Congress have gotten very good at pulling President Obama and his fellow Democrats down their rabbit holes.
“Compromise!” the Democrats protest, and refuse to go more than halfway down any given hole.
But, somehow, they find themselves dragged down a hole of conservative making regardless.
This was again the case Friday night when the president and Democrats found themselves agreeing to many GOP budget cuts at the last minute in order to avert a government shutdown.
And, if they keep playing defense, they will find themselves doing it all over again when it comes to the government facing its debt ceiling.
Democrats have to stop letting Republicans frame the debate, which Republicans are very good at doing.
It’s no longer viable for Obama just to compromise with conservatives on whatever field-of-play that the conservatives choose.
The president must use his bully pulpit to change the terms of the entire debate.
Bill Clinton, particularly, was brilliant at taking a Republican issue, and then reframing it to his advantage. From welfare reform, to deficit reduction, the list went on and on during the 1990s.
It’s time for Barack Obama to do likewise.
The word is that he plans a major speech this week to do just that. I hope the president takes full advantage of the opportunity.
Reports that the president plans to start talking about once more imposing tax increases for millionaires and billionaires is a start.
Obama also should start forcing Republicans to accept cuts that they don’t want, such as cuts to the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy and needless federal tax giveaways to the big oil companies.
But even all of that wouldn’t really be good enough.
Arguing over just taxing and spending still feels too much like “small ball,” so to speak.
Conservatives today are animated by an overarching vision that Ronald Reagan first began sketching out more than 30 years ago. Remember all of that talk about a “shining city on a hill”?
Barack Obama today must speak in terms just as evocative not just about why Republicans are wrong — but, more importantly, what he is for.
Clinton did it with his rhetoric about a “place called Hope” and helping those who “work hard and play by the rules.”
People understand that. It makes sense to them on a sort of instinctual level.
That’s what Obama has to do — now.
He has to describe what he is fighting for, in terms that every day people connect with. Let other Democrats fill in the details and connect the dots to actually make this vision a reality.
Once Obama articulates the kind of uplifting community we all want, and how we plans to bring it about, Republicans will have lost their most potent weapon — because Americans will never want such a decent place cut away into nothing.
Rather, we will have been mobilized to fight like hell to defend it.
The only question is: Does President Obama have such a vision?
Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as Republicans Have A Vision. Where Is Obama’s? on Blogcritics.