[For my overseas readers, the title of this post refers to the now banned practice in the National Football League of slamming the ball as hard as possible into the ground in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, as a way of celebrating and rubbing your opponents' noses in it.]
This is as good as it gets in politics, short of winning a blowout election, so partisans to the left of what passes these days for the center might as well enjoy it, because things won't get any better and are certain to get worse. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have scored a stunning absolute victory in their struggle with Ted Cruz, the Tea Party faction of the House, and the increasingly powerful and influential right-wing money machines such as Jim DeMint's Heritage Action Committee. They have faced down the Republicans and forced them to accept a complete capitulation. All the Republicans got from this exercise in self-immolation was -- and you really have to love the genius of American politics -- a tiny last minute smidgen of pork for Mitch McConnell to take home to Kentucky.
One of the scary things about predictions, as opposed to explanations of past events, is that they either turn out to be true or false, but political commentators in America these days have the memories of mayflies. Predictions they made even last week are forgotten, no matter how wrong they were, and shamelessly, they go right on predicting. Well, I am going to make a prediction, and in several months' time, when it is confirmed or disconfirmed, I will either spike the football in the end zone and do a little victory dance or I will, figuratively speaking, eat my hat. [I no longer actually wear hats, fortunately.] My prediction is this: When one or the other of the two deadlines built into the just-signed agreement is about to come due, the right-wing Republicans will once again try to hold the country ransom to their demands, and no one will take them seriously. They will discover that their threats simply cannot command the fear and trembling in the Republican caucus required to make them credible or effective. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have faced them down, and they will find themselves isolated within their own party.
Does this mean that we are in for a spate of progressive legislation? Of course not. I am an optimist, not an idiot. We are very, very far from a situation in which anything resembling progressive legislation has the slightest chance of being enacted into law. The reason for this is that the American electorate has chosen to send to Washington legislators whose political complexion ranges from centrist pro-capitalist to right wing end times reality denying crazy. No one in the Congress today holds political opinions with which I can unhesitatingly identify. Indeed, the last time someone was elevated to public office to whom I could give my heart and soul was 1917, when my grandfather was elected to the New York Board of Aldermen on the Socialist ticket. [I speak hyperbolically for effect, of course. There have been others. They just don't happen to have been members of my immediate family.]
In the struggle just ended, Obama played his cards with characteristic skill, content to remain virtually invisible in the last forty-eight hours because he knew that his identification with the deal would exacerbate the hatred of him in a way that might have interfered with the closing of the deal. Obama has many faults, some of which I have spoken of on this blog, leaving it to Chris to broadcast others in his rather more excited fashion. But anyone who is genuinely interested in American politics should, I think, take a moment to recognize real political skill when it is exhibited.