Post-Partisanship, Oil Drilling, and the Danger of Triangulating Against Your Rank and File

gulf_amo_2010115
(from here)

Obama's kinder, gentler "Drill, baby, drill" is looking very short-sighted. We can only hope he has learned that when you use your party loyalists as foils and adopt a center-right compromise, so that you can claim to have boldly discarded the "the tired debates between right and left", that there is a potential pitfall: your party loyalists might actually be correct on the merits. Consider oil drilling (italics mine):

UPDATE via the Wonk Room: Repeating a GOP/Oil industry sounding talking point, earlier this month the President said:

It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.

It turns out, by the way, they do...

So, last month, Obama offered a great compromise on energy. He was going to allow coastal drilling, because he going to get beyond the "tired debates" over the issue. As John asked yesterday: Now who is looking tired? Now who is backtracking? This morning, David Axelrod said that there will be no drilling until there is "an adequate review."

...This spill threatens Obama's new policy of drilling, because "all he said" was that he's going to allow it. Obama owns it now. Imagine how much we'd be mocking Palin and the GOPers over their "drill, baby, drill" agenda if Obama hadn't adopted it. So, that quest for bipartisanship and the need to please conservative Democrats is really paying off.

Someday Democratic 'leaders' are going to learn that compromises resulting from a belief that compromise is itself a goal are always political liabilities. And someday Democratic 'leaders' are going to learn that sometimes you have to be willing to lose on a particular issue in the short term, so you can gain on that issue in the long term.

And, of course, as a Jew, tradition teaches me that someday the Messiah will return. I think these three somedays will happen in my lifetime with roughly the same likelihood.

Update: Digby and Thers have similar thoughts.

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Fist, the obvious. The administration's change in policy didn't cause the spill. Second the change was simply the federal government stepping out of the way and allowing the issues to be decided at the state level.

It is up to the states concerned, all GOP dominated by chance, to figure out how the issue of GOP stance in favor of drilling squares off against the oil spills.

In essence when Obama sidestepped the issue he put the pro-oil GOP leadership at odds with a moderately right-wing constituency that supports drilling in theory, based on free market and pro-business principles, but dreads it off their shore.

As long as the argument remained a federal issue it remained academic and was argued on that level. The real world consequences were an abstraction. By having each coastal state face the issue directly by facing the theoretical good of free markets and big business prosperity against oil coming ashore on their coast.

This spill makes the decision more acute for residents in the effected states and more likely to shift these states into the Democratic/environmental camps. The individual state GOP leaderships were facing a division in their base with just the idea of oil rig off the coast. An actual spill seals the deal.

Which means the state GOP leaderships are going to have to shift their stance if they have any hope of staying in power. They will have to, at a minimum, delay coastal drilling and demand tighter regulations. Which isn't going to make their oil company contributors very happy.

The result is that the GOP in the states involved get less money to run a campaign when their base is being divided. Exactly when they need the money the most.

Apparently, I don't believe in boobies...

I always thought it was a bad idea to go for 'bipartisanship' when the other, eh, partisans had just spent an entire campaign demonstrating that they were batshit crazy. I guess they'll learn one day.

By Ketil Tveiten (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink

Triangulation is too ingrained a tactic in the Democratic president's arsenal to be done away with, but I am glad that Obama ended up with some egg on his face for doing it.

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink

I agree that Obama is not particularly left of center, and IMHO he should be much more liberal.

But where are we headed when the Democrats (or some of them) want all of their candidates to be more liberal, and Republicans (or some of them) want all of their candidates to be more conservative batshit crazy?

Anyone have any data on how many offshore rigs there are, how many oil spills they have generated in, say, the last ten years? Has the gallons spilled/rig/year been calculated. If so what is it? What does it suggest might happen if we double the number of rigs? Is this spill comparable to an unusual weather event whilst talking about climate change?

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink

Jim,
Any idea how many oil spills it takes to devastate hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands, and obliterate the livelihood of thousands of fishermen?

Just one.

By mousedude (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink