April 10, 2011

THE WAR OF FIRST VS SECOND:

Republicans Bluffed Obama And Won (Jonathan Chait, April 9, 2011, New Republic)

I’m not sure I can think of an example of a party that leverage[d] control of one House of Congress into significant policy movement in its direction on a high profile issue. When Democrats took control of the Senate in 2001, there was the sense that they could limit the ambition of President Bush’s domestic agenda, but nobody considered the possibility that they could force Bush to move policy in their direction as a condition for keeping the government open. Even when the Democrats won both Houses of Congress in 2006, they used their leverage merely to veto additional policy changes in Bush’s direction, not to adopt their own policy goals opposed by Bush.

So why didn’t President Obama at least fight the Republicans to a draw? Why, if he had to move in their direction, did he wind up adopting deeper cuts than even John Boehner originally proposed?

A few factors leap out. First, the Democratic coalition is dominated by people who favor a conciliatory political style. Substantive beliefs about policy aside, most Democratic voters want their elected officials to take what seem to be reasoned, compromising positions. The Republican coalition, by contrast, is dominated by voters who want their leaders to take strong, uncompromising stances.

Second, arguing about government spending in the abstract favors Republicans. People do not believe in (or, I would put it, understand) Keynesian economics. So arguing that spending cuts inherently jeopardize the recovery is a losing proposition. When the category is domestic discretionary spending, a catch-all category, it’s difficult to turn the debate into one of specifics, since so many actual programs are affected.


His second point being true explains why his first is at best fuzzy. Democrats, who are people too, do not believe in Keynsianism any more than Republicans do, so there is no constituency for "compromise."


Posted by at April 10, 2011 9:49 AM
  

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