Fire Dog Lake
by: David Dayen 

The Congressional Democratic leaders who have the role of winning elections are giddy about the NY-26 results. They want to replicate them all over the country. Sen. Patty Murray, head of the DSCC, thinks Democrats will now have seats they can win in 2012, despite defending more than twice as many seats in the election cycle. And Rep. Steve Israel, head of the DCCC, thinks nearly 100 seats are put in play, including Paul Ryan’s, as a result of NY-26:
WASHINGTON — In the wake of Tuesday night’s upset victory in upstate New York’s special election, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is expanding his horizons, pinpointing nearly 100 House seats that could present favorable match-ups for Democrats in 2012. He is also refocusing attention on unseating House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
“We have an excellent Democratic candidate named Rob Zerban who got into the race largely because he couldn’t tolerate Paul Ryan’s leadership on a plan to terminate Medicare, while funding tax cuts for big oil companies,” DCCC Chair Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) told The Huffington Post in a late-night interview Tuesday. “So that’s one district where the political landscape may change.”
“In addition to that, there are 97 congressional districts currently represented by a Republican that are more moderate than New York 26,” he added. “So there are 97 Republican members of Congress who are probably losing a lot of sleep tonight.”
Needless to say, if Democrats make some kind of deal to slash Medicare or Medicaid this would all be ruined. The tea leaves this morning have actually been pretty good on that front. Gene Sperling savaged Paul Ryan’s Medicaid block grant plan today, putting the Administration on the record on that aspect for the first time I can remember. The Senate plans to hold a snap vote on the Ryan budget resolution – which cannot be filibustered, by the way, so Republicans can’t avoid this vote – as early as today. Harry Reid totally dismissed the idea that more Medicare cuts are on the table in the Biden deficit negotiations, saying “You must know a lot more about Medicare and the Biden plan than I do because at this stage we haven’t touched Medicare.”

But the gravitational pull for Democrats to be “serious” and push for “responsible” cuts to the social safety net is inescapable. Check out the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, chatting up Paul Ryan behind the scenes of that Pete Peterson-funded fiscal summit today.
Clinton praised the Democratic victory in NY-26 yesterday but added, “I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.”
Ryan responds: “My guess is it’s going to sink into paralysis is what’s going to happen. And you know the math. It’s just, I mean, we knew we were putting ourselves out there. You gotta start this. You gotta get out there. You gotta get this thing moving.”
They parted with Clinton telling Ryan that if he ever wanted to talk about it, he should “give me a call.”
Bill Clinton was the ultimate DLC guy in office, and a lot of his economic team is sitting in the Obama White House. They don’t want an excuse to do nothing either, I’d suspect.

Except doing nothing is the best hope of actually keeping safety net benefits at current levels. If you “do nothing,” the Bush tax cuts expire, tax rates go back to what they were under Bill Clinton when we created 23 million new jobs, and the medium-term deficit goes away completely. Doing nothing is a pretty darn good idea, at least compared to the alternatives.

And lest we forget, there’s a jobs crisis and a demand shortfall happening in the country at the moment.

(Big Dog even undercut the Democratic message on the debt limit, by saying a default event would be “not that calamitous” if it were temporary. He tried to clean up the remark later through a spokesman, but it was really damaging.)

I continue to think we’ll have to rely on Republican intransigence and gridlock to get through this period. As Digby says:
This is actually good news because it indicates that the Republicans are so delusional that they will never agree to even the kind of fake tax hikes the corporate Dems are more than willing to give them in exchange for the cuts in “entitlements” so they think they need to sell themselves as “fiscally responsible.” As I’ve been harping for months — with the Republicans having gone completely over the cliff and the Democrats ready to compromise on anything in order that the Villagers finally acknowledge them as “grown-ups” the best thing that could happen is gridlock. Since it’s unlikely that the Democrats will ever draw a real line in the sand we have to depend upon Grover Norquist and Paul Ryan to stay crazy. Looks like that’s not going to be a problem.
Let’s hope so.