Joan Walsh gets it right when she says that Paul Ryan’s small-government, middle-class-busting austerity budget, with its massive cuts to beloved programs like Pell Grants and Medicare, is a major political gift -- but only if Democrats give up their capitulation habit and courageously and proudly oppose it. “Democrats need to stop sabotaging themselves and undermining their party’s signature accomplishments, including Medicare... I think the president learned that the hard way [during last summer’s budget fight], and I trust he’ll remember the lesson.” She’s 100% right about the first part; I’m not so sure about the second.
Much surprise has emerged about Jonathan Chait’s piece criticizing Obama’s appeasement strategy during that budget debate, given his previous unwarrented condescension towards progressives for criticizing Obama. I am reminded of Paul Krugman’s observation that among Washington’s myopic press and party elite, you get excluded if you are right too soon. That is, people get marginalized when they have the foresight, vision, and judgment to be more successful at prediction than the shallow DC dilettantes, who feign statesmanship while failing miserably at it. Being right to soon on a regular basis ought to be praiseworthy that qualifies one for high office, but sadly, the wisdom of those who are right too soon is never heard by the larger public until it is too late, to the detriment of all. Furthermore, going back to conservatism’s ascendancy in the 1980s, the voices that are “right to soon” have mostly been progressive ones: they were right about Iraq, they were right about Afghanistan, they were right about racism and sexism, they’ve been right about inequality, and they’re right on economics, climate change, secularism, and a host of other contemporary issues. And, despite the tendency of the Washington press corps to think of Paul Ryan as an amazing economic genius, progressives are right about how bad his budget is.
My prescription has always been clear: all liberals need to do to start winning is to repeatedly and persistently stand up for themselves and their policies! There is more public support for them than they think. Doing so might cause temporary criticism from the knuckledhead nexus of the brainless right and the lightweight media elite, but in the long run truth wins out -- but only when it is supported and promoted by its defenders. The truth is that the left has better policies.