Instead, recognizing Sen. Mitch McConnell's Republicans not only had the votes but the will to block any action in the Senate before the GOP took over the House in January, Obama shoved aside Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and moved to cut a deal with the GOP.
The Republicans got the Bush tax cuts. But Obama got a Social Security payroll tax cut for every worker, an estate tax raised back to 35 percent and another full year of unemployment compensation.
Obama had entered negotiations with a weak hand. But he had emerged with so impressive a deal from his own party's standpoint that Republican deficit hawks wanted their party to walk away from it, even if it meant all the Bush tax cuts expired on Jan. 1.
After cutting that deal and breaking the logjam, Obama got votes and victories on allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military and on providing billions for the first responders of 9/11. He came close to getting a limited amnesty for illegal aliens.
In short, by shouldering Pelosi and Reid aside and taking charge of negotiations with the Republicans himself, Obama not only won a string of victories, he proved bipartisan government could work.
Since then, he has been on a steady ascent in the polls. And, in his choice of new aides like Chicago's William Daley, brother of the mayor and son of the legend, Obama has signaled that after an era of confrontation on Capitol Hill comes an era of negotiation.
What does this mean for Democrats?
The left wing of the party, for the immediate future, is going to be the "dummy" at the bridge table. Obama is going to play every hand. For this president has been jolted into an awareness that, today, if not in 2008, this is a center-right country, and he and his party have drifted dangerously far out of the mainstream. He is now paddling his own canoe back to the middle of the river, leaving the left up the creek.
What does it mean for Republicans?
They will not be running in 2012 against a cookie-cutter liberal. For while Sen. Obama may have compiled a voting record to the left of Socialist Bernie Sanders', this, recall, is a fellow who voted "present" over 100 times on controversial issues in the Illinois Senate.
This is no true believer. This is a survivor. This is a fellow with an almost Nixonian capacity for maneuver.
To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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