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God bless Nate Silver

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Nate Silver writes a wonderful piece in the Times in response to some criticism he received about an earlier piece comparing the President and Governor Cuomo on gay marriage. Read Nate's entire piece. It's spot on about how the President governs, and why it annoys many liberals.

Suppose that Mr. Cuomo had expressed his desire to pass a marriage bill on the campaign trail, as he in fact did last year. But when he got to Albany, he decided to punt on the issue.

What would Mr. Cuomo have said? He would have mentioned that Republicans had taken over control of the Senate, something he had not necessarily anticipated. He would have reminded voters that the bill had been well short of passage the last time around. He might suggest that he thought he could round up a few more votes — but neither he nor the Republicans saw much point in bringing up a bill that was probably going to fail. He might tell his supporters that the prospects looked pretty bright for 2013.

It seems to me that this would have been an entirely reasonable-sounding argument. When there were some annoyed posts from liberal and gay and lesbian bloggers expressing disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s decision, perhaps someone like Mr. Yglesias would have weighed in by saying that politics is the art of the possible — and sorry, but it just wasn’t going to be possible to get a gay marriage bill through a Republican majority.

The point is that it isn’t always such a simple matter to know exactly what is possible and what isn’t. Passing a same-sex marriage through the New York Senate might have seemed impossible this year — until Mr. Cuomo actually did it.
Sometimes politics is about showing up.
The question, rather, is why Mr. Obama didn’t have the votes for something like the DREAM Act. Or more to the point: are there alternate strategies that Mr. Obama might have pursued under which he would have had the votes? (Even the filibuster, although it has become a significant part of the Senate’s culture, isn’t written into the Constitution: there are options to overcome it. They may be neither feasible nor wise options, but there are options.) [emphasis added.]
Hallelujah. Someone finally gets it.
The point is not that this is the right strategy or the wrong strategy. It might well have been the right strategy — I don’t come to a conclusion about that. But I do think it’s fair to characterize it as a risk-averse strategy. And that, at the core, is what bothers some liberals about Mr. Obama’s approach to the presidency. Fairly or not, they want him to push the envelope more than he has and to take a few more chances — to expand the realm of the possible, as Mr. Cuomo seems to have done in New York.
In a nutshell, we're looking for change and someone willing to be a vehicle for it. Is that really asking so much?

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