It is time for Mr. Obama to think about what Lyndon Johnson would do. Mr. Johnson did not flinch from confronting his caucus when he needed to, and neither should Mr. Obama.
The president has started appealing for public support for his jobs plan, and denouncing Republicans who are opposing it. John Boehner, the House speaker, gave a speech on Thursday in which he promised to consider the plan, and then all but rejected it by saying that regulation, taxes and federal spending caused the lack of jobs. In other words, government should do less, not more. He also said the deficit should be cut only by reducing spending, without any tax increases.
Republican opposition is bad enough, but The Times’s Jennifer Steinhauer reported that many Congressional Democrats are hanging back, saying they could support one or another of the components of the jobs plan, but not the whole package. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana wants to protect the oil companies to which she is beholden from losing outdated and overly generous tax breaks. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, seemed to be preparing to bury the jobs program in Senate rigmarole. Senator Bob Casey and others threatened to slice and dice the program to death.
For Mr. Obama to win public support for this effort, Americans need to see him attack the Republicans’ opposition and to forcefully get his party in line.
Some Democrats oppose the jobs bill for its apparent connection to the stimulus law from 2009, which Republicans lambasted on their way to victories in the midterm elections in 2010. The problem with the stimulus bill is not that it did not work. The problem is that neither the administration nor Congressional Democrats ever persuasively used the evidence of its positive effect on jobs, as documented by the Congressional Budget Office and in private economic analyses.
The last thing Democrats should do now is repeat that mistake, cowing in the face of Republican tirades against government help. Economists have estimated that Mr. Obama’s plan, if fully adopted, could create 1.3 million to 1.9 million jobs next year. Despite poll after poll showing that Americans support tax increases on the wealthy, Democrats have failed to act. In 2010, with majorities in both houses of Congress, they did not even vote on letting President Bush’s high-end tax cuts expire.
The Republicans will not support the jobs bill, if only because Mr. Obama wants it. Americans need Democrats to step up now, and for Mr. Obama to lead them.