"The Senate is about to become a liberal lion's den," says Kate Nocera at Politico. Despite all the talk about Republicans taking back the majority there, Democrats actually gained seats, and the new gang includes "senators who ran their campaigns as unabashed progressives and won." The group is led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, "a hero of the left" who reclaimed the late liberal champion Ted Kennedy's seat from Republican Scott Brown. Warren, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) will "strengthen a once-dwindling group of die-hard liberals" as they take their seats alongside newly reelected Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Howard Dean might say these are the folks who belong to “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” They are pro-gay marriage, pro-union, favor tax increases on the wealthy and support Obamacare. In some ways, they are populist throwbacks — in the spirit of Paul Wellstone or Hubert Humphrey — who don't flinch from explaining the positive role that government can play in people's lives.
But the question in a divided Senate is whether the new liberals will be hard-liners who refuse to compromise with the tea party types on the other side of the aisle or negotiators, like Kennedy, who made deals with Republicans ranging from Ronald Reagan to Rep. John Boehner to George W. Bush.
Unfortunately for America, the answer is already abundantly clear, says Investor's Business Daily in an editorial. The "intransigent left" is urging the president not to compromise with Republicans on a deficit deal to avert the fiscal cliff at the end of the year, "even if doing so would 'inflict damage on a still-shaky economy.'" Their logic: He'll be in a stronger position next year once the more liberal Senate is in place and the economy is in flames.
The left's attempt to sabotage any deficit deal is somewhat understandable. After all, their man won. Why should they now have to swallow any spending cuts? But the public also kept the GOP in control of Congress, sending a clear message that they want both sides to strike a deal. And Republicans have indicated that they're willing to give on revenues.
And the simple truth is that getting the nation's runaway debt under control requires reining in entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and now, thanks to the election, ObamaCare. The [real] question is whether Obama will decide to work with Republicans on a deal, or side with his take-no-prisoners pals on the left.
Obama learned the hard way that it's pointless to count on Republicans to negotiate in good faith, says Joan McCarter at Daily Kos. The president went through "fruitless" negotiations with Boehner during the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. Boehner says he's open to a deal, yet he still says he'd reject any increase in tax rates paid by the super wealthy, and his GOP troops haven't budged, either. That leaves Obama with no option but to rally the public and the newly invigorated Democratic left to back him up.
He'll go to the public that gave him and the Democratic Senate they elected a mandate on raising taxes on the wealthy, and the people will speak, again. With the new Senate, and the popular vote win for House Democrats, that mandate extends to protecting the middle class all around, including by protecting Medicare and Medicaid.
If the GOP ever absorbs the message behind their election losses, says McCarter, they'll see that they're the ones who must show flexibility if Congress is to prevent America from falling off the cliff.