What Would Barack Obama’s Approval Rating Look Like Today If He Had Done This?

Imagine this scenario. Barack Obama is elected President and he actually decides to pursue a center-left agenda and work with Republicans.

* He crafts a stimulus package, smaller than the one he has now, but with more tax cuts and all the spending front loaded to 2009. It passes with a significant number of Republican and Democratic votes in the House.

* Obama shoots down the cash-for-clunkers deal. Says that he wants to spur car sales to, but that it’s not responsible for government to spend money like that in a recession.

* Barack Obama wants to let other world leaders know he’s humble, but not servile. So, no there’s no bowing.

* Stanley McChrystal asks for more troops for Afghanistan, a conflict Obama has called a “war of necessity.” Within a week, Obama notes that even though some people in his own party disagree, he’s not going to play politics with the decision — he’s going to give McChrystal his 40,000 troops.

* Obama decides the TARP funds are doing little good, are being misused, and are costing too much. So, he decides not to spend any TARP money beyond holding back a bit of cash to be used to give low interest loans to Chrysler and General Motors after they are finished with bankruptcy court.

* Obama decides Cap and Trade probably can’t pass the Senate and even if it could, it would make little sense to dramatically spike energy costs in the middle of a recession. So, rather than push for it, he says he’s going to wait until the economy is better to push the plan.

* On health care, Obama says that given the budget situation, he can’t justify a huge new program. However, he does want to work with Republicans to set up an insurance pool to cover the roughly 8-10 million Americans who want health care insurance, but can’t afford it. He works with Republican moderates the whole time and passes the bill easily with bipartisan support.

After all that, you tell me, how much higher would Barack Obama’s approval rating be today? How much more popular would Democrats be? How much more fractured would the Republican party be today? Yet, the Democrats could have moved their agenda forward quite a bit. There’s an old saying that applies in situations like this: Pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered.

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