They brought in pollsters to their party conferences to persuade their members that the country was fervently behind them. They were supported by their interest groups and cheered on by their activists and the partisan press. They spent federal money in an effort to buy support but ended up disgusting the country instead.Ah! Must begin by trashing the GOP. See, the Repubs have already done a suicide march. Now, it's time for the Dems to go:
It’s not that interesting to watch the Democrats lose touch with America.It's all about interesting. The question is: Does the news amuse me?
That’s because the plotline is exactly the same.Suicide is so last year.
The party is led by insular liberals from big cities and the coasts, who neither understand nor sympathize with moderates. They have their own cherry-picking pollsters, their own media and activist cocoon, their own plans to lavishly spend borrowed money to buy votes.(I'm distracted by mixed metaphors. Insular/coasts. Cherry-picking/cocoon.)
Brooks goes on to identify 3 stages of the liberal suicide march, and I think it's glaringly obvious that what the liberals are doing is disastrous and destructive in a way that is utterly different from the Republicans continued adherence to conservative philosophy. Conservatism was only unpopular, and it could become popular again, especially after we've seen the liberal philosophy acted out in real life:
First, there was the stimulus package. You would have thought that a stimulus package would be designed to fight unemployment and stimulate the economy during a recession. But Congressional Democrats used it as a pretext to pay for $787 billion worth of pet programs with borrowed money. Only 11 percent of the money will be spent by the end of the fiscal year — a triumph of ideology over pragmatism.This is suicide. I say: Hurry up and die.
Then there is the budget. Instead of allaying moderate anxieties about the deficits, the budget is expected to increase the government debt by $11 trillion between 2009 and 2019.
Finally, there is health care. Every cliché Ann Coulter throws at the Democrats is gloriously fulfilled by the Democratic health care bills. The bills do almost nothing to control health care inflation. They are modeled on the Massachusetts health reform law that is currently coming apart at the seams precisely because it doesn’t control costs. They do little to reward efficient providers and reform inefficient ones.
The House bill adds $239 billion to the federal deficit during the first 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It would pummel small businesses with an 8 percent payroll penalty. It would jack America’s top tax rate above those in Italy and France. Top earners in New York and California would be giving more than 55 percent of earnings to one government entity or another.
Nancy Pelosi has lower approval ratings than Dick Cheney and far lower approval ratings than Sarah Palin. And yet Democrats have allowed her policy values to carry the day — this in an era in which independents dominate the electoral landscape.Ugh! I flash back on a post I wrote last October, October 30th, a few days before I voted for Obama, "With the Democratic control of Congress, how much traction should McCain get out of the argument for divided government?" Here's the whole text of that post, with boldface and bracketed commentary added:
Who’s going to stop this leftward surge? Months ago, it seemed as if Obama would lead a center-left coalition. Instead, he has deferred to the Old Bulls on Capitol Hill on issue after issue.
TNR presents the debate. On Monday, John B. Judis had a piece in called "Down with Divided Government," and today, we get a response from Jacob T. Levy: "In Defense of Two-Party Rule."Aaaaggghhhhh! Interesting. Save me from interesting!
This is a huge question for me, and I've wavered on the subject. Usually, I prefer divided government, but that doesn't mean I need to support McCain. I've seen McCain put way too much effort into pleasing Democrats and flouting his own party, and I can picture Obama standing up to the Democratic Congress and being his own man. What, really, will he owe them? McCain, by contrast, will need them. And we've seen that he wants to be loved by them.
Sometimes, I think that letting the Democrats control everything for 2 years would work out just fine. Let one party take responsibility for everything. When they can't whine and finger-point, what will they actually step up and do? It will be interesting to know.
And it will do the Republicans good to retool and define themselves, with an eye toward the 2010 election. I'd like to see this clarification after so many years of obfuscation.
So, that's how my thinking about 2-party rule has supported my decision to vote for Obama.
Now, let's see what Judis and Levy say. Judis notes various examples of successful presidencies under united government and bad presidencies with divided government, and says the evidence proves that "divided government is a curse, not a blessing, and should be avoided, if at all possible." He elaborates:[In "The Politics Presidents Make" Stephen] Skowronek, a Yale political scientist, distinguishes two kinds of circumstances that have led to crippled government. In the first, a president from an opposing party, but who nevertheless represents the wave of the political future, confronts a congress wedded to the past and determined to frustrate him. You could put Nixon (who was the harbinger of an emerging Republican majority) and Clinton (who was the harbinger of an emerging Democratic majority) in this group. Both these presidencies degenerated into chaos in their second terms.Levy says:
Then, there are presidents who, in Skowronek’s words, are “affiliated with a set of established commitments that have in the course of events been called into question as failed or irrelevant responses to the problems of the day.” Skowroneck numbers among these James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. These presidents don’t necessarily have to contend with a Congressional opposition in power, but like Hoover and Carter in their last two years, with a nascent and growing opposition in Congress that constitutes a functional majority in opposition to what they want to do. These presidencies have also proved disastrous.
A John McCain presidency would clearly fall in the latter group, and McCain, unlike Hoover and Carter, would have to face clear and unequivocal majorities in Congress united against him. Rather than promising success, that kind of divided government would promise chaos and failure.The simple fact is that Republicans never controlled the House during Reagan's eight years....But he's still not promoting McCain:
The last six years of Clinton's presidency, 1995 to 2001, is the other era of divided government that gets held up as exemplary. Judis dismisses it as catastrophic on the basis of the Clinton impeachment. But that misses the wonderful weirdness of the late '90s. The chaos of impeachment coexisted alongside bipartisan legislative accomplishments... Again, I think a good president was made better through divided government....The obvious prediction is that Obama will have at least two years of one-party government. That may be, temporarily, for the best--the Bush-era Republican Party, like the Nixon-era Republican Party, needs some time in the wilderness to unlearn some very bad habits. ... [I]n the unlikely event that a healthier, reformed Republican Party is ready by 2010 and able to grab back control of the House, so much the better for American politics--and maybe so much the better for Obama's presidency. And in the meantime, I'm certainly rooting for smart and decent Hill Republicans (admittedly a minority) to hold onto their seats to lead the rebuilding toward another era of soundly divided government.I don't know if undivided government is always better, but I think it can have some benefits now, and it's not so obviously always bad that opposition to it works as an especially strong reason to support McCain in 2008.
We'll never know what McCain might have done. He'd have made his own mistakes, and I won't assume he would have stood up to Congress.
And I cling to the belief that Obama has the ability to save us from the destructive path Congress has chosen for itself. But will he use it?
How much of an ideologue is he anyway? We've come this far, and still we don't really know. Is he, at heart, the committed leftist his staunchest opponents say he is? I know Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying — over and over — that Obama is intentionally destroying the economy (so that nothing will be left for us but socialism).
I still think Obama is a pragmatist. I also think he's mainly interested in attaining personal glory. If that's right, the prospect of his own defeat in 2012 should shock him into standing up to the bunch of Democrats who — I hope and I hope he sees — will be crushed in 2010.
So: hope and change. Come on, Obama. We need some now.