One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
And Jonathan Chait takes it from there.
This apparent paradox is one reason Obama's political identity has eluded easy definition. On the one hand, you have a disciple of the radical community organizer Saul Alinsky turned ruthless Chicago politician. On the other hand, there is the conciliatory post-partisan idealist. The mistake here is in thinking of these two notions as opposing poles. In reality it's all the same thing. Obama's defining political trait is the belief that conciliatory rhetoric is a ruthless strategy.
As I think about the smoldering war between the Republican establishment and its base that I just wrote about, its obvious to me that one of the contributors to it is the clash of strategies we could call Obama's conciliatory rhetoric vs McConnell's total obstruction.
If, as some progressives suggest, the goal is the complete destruction of the Republican Party, we just might be on the precipice of that happening. And wouldn't it be total karma coming back to bite the poutragers in the ass if all of this were to be happening because of President Obama's grounding commitment to bi-partisanship?
Here's how I see that happening. Since long before he decided to run for President, Barack Obama has been clear that he's willing to reach out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike to work together on pragmatic solutions to the challenges that face us today. If you're Mitch McConnell and your one and only goal is to make Obama a one-term president, what do you do in response? You can work with him and prove him both prescient and right. Or you can fight him on every front with total obstruction. We all know what he chose because it was the only path available to his goal.
In order to do that, McConnell was forced to occupy political space that was further and further to the extreme. As we're watching today, they're even positioning themselves against tax cuts for the middle class. And to get there, they've had to fire up their extreme base with everything from embracing the tea partiers to kow-towing to the likes of Rush Limbaugh. And that has led them to the brink of possibly nominating a red-meat throwing Newt Gingrich in 2012. How's all that working out for you now McConnell?
Meanwhile, too many on the left have lost their minds in only seeing the "conciliatory" part of Obama's strategy. We're now in the phase where the "ruthless" part is starting to take hold. The choice is still there for Republicans...they can either work with us or go down in flames with their base. That's the brilliance of our President Barack Obama.