Why Democrats Surrendered on Taxes

The tax fight was lost before it began, so President Barack Obama decided to play for a tie.

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But the more realistic view, as Slate's John Dickerson observes, is that postelection items on the Dems' wish list -- like an extension of benefits, or an up-or-down vote on the START treaty -- "come with a price determined by the GOP." So now the president is going his own way. In poker terms, he mucked his hand and stayed at the table instead of going all in before the flop. Here's how that works:

Obama is counting on getting credit in the short term for rising above partisanship. But even if the economy improves, he's taking a risk, because that credit won't come from Republicans. They're unlikely to reverse course two years from now and agree to let the lower rates expire. Next time around, they'll insist on more tax cuts and ask for big cuts in government -- cuts that will be unpopular with just about everyone. Next time around, Obama is going to have to play a hand.

But if the current compromise pans out for Obama with voters in the long term, one day they might be calling it a great political laydown. Place your bets.

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.