The Wall Street Journal has an article exploring whether conservative attacks on President Obama have allowed him to shore up support among liberals even as he disappoints them on a number of issues. This is something that first struck me during the Joe Wilson “You Lie!” episode. Even though President Obama gave a health care speech to a joint session of Congress in which he opened the door to ditching the government health insurance plan, liberals were too busy snarling about Wilson to get angry about it.
This phenomenon is nothing new to politics. President Bush, for instance, still enjoyed strong support among conservatives for much of his presidency, even as he passed the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society and expanded the federal role in education. While there was always criticism along the margins, and a temporary uproar, it would be quickly forgotten once a liberal made some outrageous charge. It wasn’t really until Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers in 2005 that we saw a widespread and sustained conservative revolt from which he never really recovered.
So as Obama enters the stage of the health care debate in which he’ll have to find a way to talk liberals into accepting less, his best ally may be his critics on the right. One can see a White House pitch to liberals that more or less amounts to, a loss on health care means victory for Joe Wilson, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.