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Gaming the Post-Inaugural Landscape

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When predictable events, such as a presidential inauguration, occur in your nation's capital, the punditocracy gather to game out what they mean. For a second-term inauguration never simply means the swearing in of an incumbant president -- where's the story in that? -- it's about setting the course, predicting potential problems, and trying to find something, anything, vaguely new to say about the thing.

And so it is that we find a story today on the front page of Politico that asks whether, during the president's second term, the Democrats can manage to hang together. And despite my lead-paragraph snark, that is something of a fair question. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for instance, has little enthusiasm for an assault-weapons ban, while Dems from more urban states agree with the president.  But in all the conjecture, one senses the punditocracy's desire to refute the progressive, populist bent the party has taken.

The fault line among the Dems, as Politico writers Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman see it, is around projected changes to Social Security and Medicare -- but there are other strains, as well, outside of Congress. One example noted is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's tussle with the teachers' union.

To illustrate the article, titled "Up Next for Obama: A Looming Democratic Divide," Politico editors chose a photo of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass., juxtaposed with one of Emanuel. But last time I looked, Emanuel was hardly a leader in the national party. 

AlterNet readers can take heart, however, in quotes from Rep. Keith Ellison, Minn., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio:

“The real struggle within the Democratic Party is where you stand on income inequality and whether the government needs to be a part of fixing that problem,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The demographics that the Democratic Party must attract are the people who need responsive government.”

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The differences in the Democratic coalition are razor sharp. Take the question of whether Obama and Congress should consider raising the eligibility age for future Medicare recipients as a way to find savings.

“That stuff you debate out,” said Emanuel, adding: “I don’t think raising the age of Medicare to 67 is a centrist or a liberal idea.”

But to a progressive stalwart like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) such an idea isn’t just ill-considered — it’s “morally reprehensible.”

“That is such a Washington, Heritage Foundation construction,” Brown said of raising the eligibility age.

Reminded that some of his own colleagues are open to it, he shot back: “They’re wrong.”

 

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