THE LUNATIC FRINGE MARCHES ON – AT 9:24 P.M. ET: President Obama defended his tax deal with Republicans today, but the troops on his far left are very restless.
Commentators report that the votes currently aren't there to pass the plan in this lame duck session of Congress, where Dems control the House by a decisive margin. The new neighbors don't move in until January. And the Dems are angry. They feel betrayed. Obama's compromise is not what Marx would do, Karl or Groucho.
Yes, enough Dems will probably have their arms twisted to get the deal through, but the rumblings grow that Mr. Obama might be challenged from the left in the 2012 primaries. The New York Times reports:
Of course, Mr. Obama is only the latest in a long line of Democratic presidents, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, to disappoint the liberal wing of his party and to at least hear rumblings of a challenge. In 1960, the hipster John F. Kennedy represented for liberals something similar to what Mr. Obama embodied as a candidate; two years later, the writer Norman Mailer acidly concluded that Kennedy stood for nothing but the pursuit of power, “without light or principle.”
Both Johnson and President Jimmy Carter faced liberal primary challenges when they stood for re-election: Mr. Johnson because of the Vietnam War and Mr. Carter because he was deemed to be ineffectual in advancing liberal ideals. Bill Clinton’s stances on issues like free trade and welfare reform similarly infuriated the left, though he managed to avoid a primary.
Echoing his Democratic predecessors, Mr. Obama seemed frustrated at a news conference on Tuesday about being pilloried by liberals who haven’t had to wrestle with the realities of governing. “I’ve got a whole bunch of lines in the sand,” Mr. Obama protested.
Mr. Obama will not lose the nomination to a leftist challenger. No way. But a challenge could hurt him:
...Mr. Obama must be aware that not all primary challenges to sitting presidents are about winning. Some, like Edward Kennedy’s in 1980 and Ronald Reagan’s in 1976, are in fact designed to unseat the incumbent and capture the presidency. But other ideological challengers, like Eugene J. McCarthy in 1968 and Patrick J. Buchanan 24 years later, measure their success not by where they’re standing on Inauguration Day, but by whether they have changed the trajectory of their parties.
Such protests candidates don’t have to win more than a state or two to have an impact; they merely have to show up and sow division. It probably isn’t coincidental that none of the last four American presidents to face primaries while seeking re-election — Johnson, Gerald R. Ford, Carter and George H. W. Bush — survived to serve another term.
In other words, should the president’s progressive critics warm to the idea, it might not take a particularly credible primary challenge to weaken Mr. Obama’s chances for re-election. It might only take a challenge designed to do exactly that.
COMMENT: Ah, the kamikaze mentality is alive and well on the left. What really baffles me is the failure of leftists, and occasionally of hard-line rightists, to understand that they don't command a majority in this nation, or anything near it. They live in their delusional world, and are pleased by where they live.
December 7, 2010