To use the coinage by David Brooks, I must be a "network liberal" rather than a "cluster liberal." I'm just not all that angered by President Obama's tax compromise with the GOP.
Cluster liberals (like cluster conservatives) go to the barricades on every issue, seeing any compromise as a sign of mortal weakness. Network liberals share the same values as their cluster brethren, but recognize that you have to give in order to get. So, as a network liberal, Obama yielded on keeping lower tax rates for everyone [nobody disagreed about 98% of people; the dispute was tax rates for the top 2%] and on a broad estate tax exemption. In return, he got a 13 month extension of unemployment insurance and a 1 year reduction in the payroll tax.
Neither the unemployment extension or payroll tax reduction are Republican ideas; those are solidly Democratic. Had Obama gone to the barricades, these wouldn't be in the plan. They were the President's non-negotiable demands, so it's unfair to say that Obama just folded.
The estate tax bit hurts the most, but accepting this allowed for broader tax relief for low and middle-income workers. And accepting the overall rates for 2 more years is what allowed the unemployment extension and payroll tax reduction. If Obama had been intransigent, the Republicans had enough votes in the Senate to thwart him, and all taxes would have gone up Jan. 1.
So this is a crystalline "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" moment. Senator Sander's vigor today on the Senate floor, in opposition to the proposed plan, is admirable. But I'm with Bill Clinton that this was the best deal we could get today.