Broder’s middle is a strange place

BRODER’S MIDDLE IS A STRANGE PLACE…. Over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said President Obama could only “survive” politically if he chooses to “come back to the middle.” It’s already obvious that this will be the accepted conventional wisdom, if it isn’t already, within the political establishment: Dems shouldn’t have been so darn liberal.

Cue David Broder.

Nov. 2 is likely to be marked as the official start of Phase Two of the Obama presidency, but in some respects, the turn to the right that will mark his tenure became visible in this first week in September.

In an odd twist, Broder considers the president’s speeches in Wisconsin and Ohio as evidence of a new, more conservative approach. That, in and of itself, is a rather odd take — nearly everyone who heard those speeches came away with the impression that Obama was more partisan than usual, more populist than usual, and more combative about fighting with the GOP over economic policy than usual.

Broder, however, saw a move to the right because the president proposed tax incentives that Republicans might like. It’s an odd analysis — Obama called for new infrastructure investment (liberal), demanded that tax breaks for the rich expire on schedule (liberal), and categorically rejected the entire Republican vision of economic policy (liberal). Broder sees the same speeches and thinks “liberals in his party” will disapprove, and that Obama’s new ideas represent “the kind of tax reform Republicans can love.” Given the responses to the two speeches — Dems are largely impressed, the GOP isn’t — that seems backwards.

What’s more, Broder also believes the public has soured on the administration’s economic policies because of “mushrooming deficits.” That seems mistaken, too — the public’s frustrations, according to all available evidence, have far less to do with deficits than an unemployment rate near 10%. Broder may be principally concerned about the deficit, but the jobs crisis is almost certainly more on the minds of Americans in general.

But the larger point is the key here — Broder expects the president to “turn to the right.” It’s the kind of analysis that will dominate the political establishment after the midterms, and it’s going to be entirely wrong.

Obama already is and has been in “the middle.” It’s what led to a smaller and less effective stimulus; it’s what led to a more moderate health care reform bill; it’s what produced a less ambitious Wall Street reform package. The president has sought to compromise, over and over again, with a comically right-wing GOP that’s not only refused to meet him half-way on literally anything, but at times seems intent on undermining national progress purely for partisan gain.

The wait for columns on Republicans moving to the middle, meanwhile, continues.