Barack Obama appears to be making significant overtures to cultivate Republican support for his fiscal stimulus plan with massive tax cuts (albeit short-term tax shifts rather than structural changes or actual cuts). The Leftroots (and Paul Krugman) are fairly upset about this. Kevin Drum says this attempt to win bipartisan support (rather than just the few Republican votes he absolutely needs to secure passage) is a bad idea, because Obama is making concessions he doesn't have to make and diluting Democratic policy.
The netroots is understandably anxious to enact all of their favorite policies - they earned political capital in the campaign and they intend to spend it, they'll argue without a trace of irony - but that's what President Clinton did in 93-94, right before he learned the difference between stated preference (nice things are nice!) and revealed preference (wait, you want to do what to me?). The Democrats tried to run out of the gate and discovered too late that they'd left a lot of people behind. In 1994, those people voted.
Obama's strategy is a lot more sophisticated than that.
Here's the calculation on fiscal stimulus: If Obama gets his way, he's looking at massive, trillion dollars deficits, and much more government intervention in the economy. The public may tolerate this due to fears about economic crisis, but if it works out well and the US gets a relatively soft landing from the recession, then the costs will still be visible (deficit, intervention), but the benefits will be intangible (the crisis that didn't come).
What's more, the Democrats have only one possible solution to the massive deficits coming down the pike: increase taxes. (Object lesson: "We can spend more of your money" is the Democrats solution to everything)
If Obama passes the perfect progressive stimulus bill without much Republican help, he owns the spending, the deficits, the tax hikes and all of the pain that comes with it. Republicans will be happy to run against those problems in 2010 and 2012.
But if Obama buys significant Republican support for his bill, Republicans will own the deficits, tax hikes and intervention, as well. The stimulus bill will be for Republicans what the Iraq war was for Democrats - a policy they first supported, then regretted, then tripped over themselves to explain. The "they were for it before they were against it" ads would be inevitable and devastating.
Republicans are in a difficult situation here.
- If they oppose the bill and it fails, they will be blamed (fairly or not) for any economic problems.
- If they support the bill and it passes, they will share the blame for the enormous costs it will entail.
- If they oppose the bill and it passes, the lack of policy leverage would leave the bill much worse than if they had forced potentially valuable compromises (e.g., sunset provisions and exit strategies).
Obama doesn't want bipartisan support, so much as he wants political immunization. In this case, unity and bipartisanship = lashing the Republicans to the mast of Government.
There aren't many good solutions here, but one thing seems likely: as with the Democrats and the Iraq war, the future leaders of the Republican Party will probably come from among the politicians who can say "I told you so" when they run because they said "no" now.