Consensus of the Washington talking heads: Obama will “move to the center” following the debacle in Massachusetts.

If he does, Obama will go down in history as another Jimmy Carter, a very intelligent and well-intentioned fellow who just didn’t get it in his one term as president.

May I recommend some reading this dreary Sunday in January? First, Frank Rich in The New York Times:

The Obama administration is so overstocked with Goldman Sachs-Robert Rubin alumni and so tainted by its back-room health care deals with pharmaceutical and insurance companies that conservative politicians, Brown included, can masquerade shamelessly as the populist alternative.

After that, read this piece on DailyKos about Abraham Lincoln and fighting for a cause. For Lincoln and the Union Army circa 1862, think Democratic Party and its massive advantages circa 2010 — if only it would use them in the great causes of today.

In the spring of 1862, the vast army of the United States was gathered on the Virginia Peninsula. Landed by a massive and lengthy amphibious operation that was a testimony to the North’s military and industrial might, the army had been brought to this swampy ground with the stated intention of “leaping” up the peninsula to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond. The army’s commander, General George McClellan, had trained and equipped his troops like no force in history. They were by far the largest, best equipped, best prepared, most formidable army on the face of the earth.

But McClellan (think Max Baucus) didn’t want to fight. He dithered in hopes a centrist solution could be found.

Lincoln was reviled by the media even in the northern states which elected him for the first two-plus years of his presidency. Why? Because the prevailing view among those in the know was that the Civil War was unwinnable, and the sooner Lincoln realized it and “moved to the center” (i.e. cut a deal to let the South go or, in the alternative, let slavery go on), the sooner good times would return. By the fall of 1864, with the war won, he was re-elected in a landslide.

The cause that confronts Obama is almost as formidable as saving the Union. He must do nothing less than put government back on the side of the people in the face of a national press and two political parties — his own and the Republicans — which are completely beholden to Wall Street (in the case of financial policies), Big Oil and the Big Utilities (in the case of energy policies). Big Pharma and the medical establishment (in the case of health care policies), the Military-Industrial Complex first identified by Dwight Eisenhower (in the case of war-making and the conduct of foreign policy), and multinational corporations with no loyalties to the United States or our people (in the case of trade policies).

Move to the center? On these issues, there is no center. There are policies that would restore this country’s economic and social well-being, and there are policies that will protect the privileges of the Special Interests at the expense of our country. There is, in a nutshell, the challenge of bridling Global Capitalism in its most pernicious forms — and it requires radical, conservative action of the kind Lincoln took to conserve the Union.

Lincoln demanded that his generals fight, and he fired them when they refused. One of them, McClellan, was his chief opponent in 1864 and in Washington, the pundits picked McClellan to win right through the summer.

Obama’s McClellans are named Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, and (ironically) Blanche Lincoln in the Senate. Also, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner in his own cabinet. As long as they’re in charge of your battles, Mr. President, you are doomed to lose them.

Your Democratic army deserves better.