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Most Democrats seem to think that Plouffes new role as a political coordinator and facilitator could turn out to be a good move for the White House and for Democrats. But they wonder whether he really understands the difficult spot in which Democratic elected officials find themselves.
In his Jan. 24 Washington Post opinion piece, Plouffe urged his fellow Democrats to avoid bed-wetting. Instead of fearing what may happen, he wrote, lets prove that we have more than just the brains to govern that we have the guts to govern.
Plouffes comment was followed a few days later by a similar observation from the president, who told ABC News Diane Sawyer that there is a tendency in Washington to believe that our job description, as elected officials, is to get re-elected. Thats not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and help people.
The implication, of course, is that Members of Congress shouldnt care what their constituents think and that they should support the presidents agenda even if it hurts them at the polls.
But most Democrats around Capitol Hill who have been fighting in the political trenches around the country have a very different view of what has been going on.
These [Democratic Members] have been taking a lot of tough votes. I havent seen a lot of bed-wetting going on, responded one Democrat on the front lines.
They want to get the heavy lifting done, added another Democrat about the White Houses priorities. They dont care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.
Of course, not everyone blames the president and his White House staff. Some think much of the blame should be placed on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. Its reckless what she has done, a Democratic campaign consultant told me.
Still, as Reggie Jackson used to say, we all know who the straw that stirs the drink is its the president. Its up to the White House to set the national agenda, and he ought to know when hes an asset to his party and when hes becoming a problem for them.
Yes, any presidents priority is enacting his agenda, not re-electing some Democratic Congressman from Alabama. But the White House wont help its legislative agenda by its arrogance by telling Members that the president can do no wrong and that its their duty to follow the Obama agenda.
Thats especially true if following his agenda means they will have to jump off a cliff this year while the president will have two more years, after November, to save himself politically.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.