THE BLOG
10/11/2013 04:57 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2013

Cave on Debt Ceiling Poses Peril for the Democrats

President Obama has repeatedly said that he will not budge on his demand to reopen the government and green lighting a deal on a debt ceiling raise. The reason he can't goes far beyond the fact that the debt ceiling has been routinely raised for the past three decades under GOP and Democratic presidents with barely a peep of protest and that Congress must pay the bills that it made and allocated money for. Nor is it solely over fear of the devastating financial consequences of a debt default.

A major give-in by Obama to the GOP would further embolden Congressional Republicans to push even harder to gut the Affordable Care Act. The GOP would also push even harder its demand for Obama to make draconian cuts or outright eliminate its checklist of programs that include community service block grants which fund an array of community education, health and social service programs in poor, underserved, largely inner-city neighborhoods, cut programs in science, technology, youth mentoring programs, and employment and training assistance. These are the programs that millions of voters put their trust in Obama and the Democrats to protect.

In 2011, Obama moved away from the danger line on the debt ceiling and the budget with several deft moves. He slashed the endless runaway military spending on the two wars that he inherited from Bush. The overall projected defense cuts total a half trillion dollars spread out over a decade. He agreed to the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, and made trims in some programs, that significantly reduced government spending. His budget for 2014 of nearly $4 trillion makes concessions the GOP demanded such as a chained CPI, Medicare trims, and spending cuts in selected defense and non-defense programs, and most importantly to break the current impasse he repeatedly said that he's open to short term deal to end the shut down and raise the debt ceiling.

A White House compromise, however, that agrees to broad spending cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling rise would set a dangerous precedent. In the future the GOP could use the debt ceiling raise as a perennial bargaining chip to compel Obama in 2014 and 2015 to roll over to whatever GOP budget or program cut it demands and for any other program or initiative Obama proposes and the GOP opposes. This in effect would make the debt ceiling along with budget a perpetual hammer the GOP could swing to get its way.

The political fall-out from a compromise would be even greater. House Republicans would wave this like the proverbial bloody flag to their ultra conservative constituents and conservative financial backers as a triumphant example of how they backed the administration down in their march to achieve their cherished goal of downsizing government. This would give them even more propulsion to mobilize their troops in the 2014 mid-term elections to try and oust Democrats from Senate seats in swing or red States that are up for reelection. This could give the GOP its long sought majority in the Senate and if they retain their House majority full control of Congress. The goal would then be to render Obama politically neutered in his final two years in office. Faced with the possible terrifying prospect of four years of unrelenting warfare with a GOP controlled congress that Obama faced, this might even prompt the one Democrat who has the best shot at grabbing the White House in 2016, Hillary Clinton, to think long and hard about tossing her hat in the presidential ring.

Obama has several trump cards to play to bolster his "I'm not budging" stance and not cave to the GOP's hostage taking demands on the debt ceiling and the partial government shutdown. One is the polls. Though a significant number of Americans blame the Democrats and Obama for the shutdown, the overwhelming majority of those polled blame the GOP.

They have not been flattering in their assessment of what the GOP has done and the chaos it has wreaked, and express contempt for the GOP's open and oft stated goal of trying to render the Obama presidency, a failed presidency. Another Obama strongpoint is the public turn-off to the tea party. A Gallup poll reaffirmed what other polls have found and that's that the tea party support has shrunk to a near record low among the public.

The handful of extreme right-wing tea party backed House Republicans have terrified House Speaker John Boehner threat to oust him from the speakership and to mount candidate challenges in GOP primaries against conciliating House Republicans that cut a deal with Obama on the budget and the ceiling.

The other is the unease among corporations, Wall Street, and some conservative groups such as Heritage Action over a dragged out fight on the debt ceiling and the budget. Their unease has turned to quiet pressure on the GOP to cut a deal with Obama to raise the debt ceiling, end the government shutdown, though they are clear they will continue to push to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

The combination of public revulsion, and GOP division, and the party's increasing isolation make it even more imperative that Obama stick to his guns and not cave to GOP blackmail. Anything less poses peril for the Democrats.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.

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