- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
- President Obama speaks at the White House yesterday after the Senate voted to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit.
Yesterday’s budget deal climaxed a humiliating week for Republicans. As the New York Times summed it up: “In a futile campaign to strip [the Affordable Care Act] of federal money, the party focused harsh scrutiny on its own divisions, hurt its national standing and undermined its ability to win concessions from Democrats. Then they surrendered almost unconditionally.”
But were the Democrats rubbing it in? Not publicly, at least—and members of the media found this notable:
“The White House was careful not to gloat over its victory . . .”
“White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was careful not to gloat. . .”
“Good work in repressing the temptation to gloat, House Democrats!”
I never spiked the football after scoring a touchdown in high school, but maybe that was because I didn’t play on the football team. Gloating was also frowned upon back then. Now, though, victory dances seem almost mandatory. Why not celebrate after you’ve accomplished something?
But what have Democrats accomplished? Government is being reopened for only three months. The debt limit has been raised for just three-and-a-half months. The sequestration cuts that went into effect in March are still reducing spending on education and other social programs.
As Peter Beinart pointed out Monday for the Daily Beast, when the Republicans relented on defunding the Affordable Care Act but continued to fight the funding of government and an increase in the debt ceiling, the press said the party had caved. “But that’s like saying that the neighborhood bully has caved because after demanding your shoes and bike, he’s once again willing to accept merely your lunch money,” Beinart observed.
He went on:
The promise of the Obama presidency was not merely that he’d bring Democrats back to power. It was that he’d usher in the first era of truly progressive public policy in decades. But the survival of Obamacare notwithstanding, Obama’s impending “victory” in the current standoff moves us further away from, not closer to, that goal.
In the fight to reopen the government and avert default, the plans Obama announced in his State of the Union address in January—climate-change laws, investment in infrastructure, universal preschool, a higher minimum wage—”have been largely forgotten,” Beinart wrote.
So resisting the urge to gloat now isn’t just good manners or good politics. It’s also appropriate. The Democrats didn’t really score a touchdown; the Republicans fumbled the ball on the Democrats’ five-yard line. Maybe one day Democrats will really have something to gloat about, but not yet, not nearly.