When Governance Dictates Politics

One of the bizarre strains of thought that has emerged in the blogs is the view that President Obama and Democrats will now be judged by the direction the opposition from the GOP takes. Here is Nate Silver:

[S]urely the phrase "ZERO Republicans voted for the Recovery Package" is more likely to escape Democratic lips on the campaign trail in 2010 than Republican ones.

Certainly that depends on whether the stimulus works no? More . . .

Silver writes that "It is not clear why they would want this: the Republican brand, even under the best of circumstances, is not likely to be significantly rehabilitated by 2010. . . " I think that is why the GOP is taking this tack actually. Elections are, by and large, referendums on the governing party. Does anyone think Dems won in 2006 and 2008 because of their compelling message, or was it because the Bush Administration was the worst in history? It is this simple, Obama and Democrats will be judged on their governing performance (particularly in Congressional elections.) If that performance is found wanting, Republicans will make major gains. And if the economy does not turn around by 2012, Obama will lose reelection. Governing well, with efficacious policies, is the politics Democrats should adopt now. The post-partisan unity schtick won't be worth a hill of beans if the country is still a mess in 4 years.

Speaking for me only

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    Ed Kilgore (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:53:03 AM EST
    I've followed the debate pretty carefully, and have never seen any real evidence that Obama thought he'd be able to get House Republican support; other than a couple of blind quotes from Obama aides in places like the Wall Street Journal, there's never been any evidence of that at all. The idea that including tax cuts in the package indicated a lust for Republican support, or a concession to their views, ignores the rather important fact that the bulk of tax cuts were for implementation of Obama's central campaign pledge of a tax cut benefitting low-to-moderate income workers. The small batch of business tax cuts in the package didn't follow GOP ideology at all, and were likely aimed at securing (successfully) business-community support, not that of House Republicans. When House GOPers asked for real concessions, Obama turned them down.

    I guess that's plausible. The problem is this: clearly, what we have on the table is not a package that is most likely to work. Who cares what groups do or don't support it if it isn't going to work?

    So Kilgore's argument is (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:55:45 AM EST
    that this lousy package is all Obama's.

    Well then Obama is the problem no?


    You have to wonder whether (none / 0) (#4)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:58:10 AM EST
    his economists are telling him something different. It's hard to imagine that they are.

    I could imagine that the blue dogs were being even more of a PITA then publicly expressed.


    he's eschewing fdr (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Salo on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:26:41 AM EST
    and looking more like carter everyday.

    and so fast. (none / 0) (#16)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:27:20 AM EST
    Perception is everything here.

    Could you explain what you mean by that? (none / 0) (#29)
    by Joelarama on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:14:28 AM EST
    That's an interesting comparison.

    and a silly superficial one at this stage. (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:35:24 AM EST
    No, I'm truly interested in how salo (none / 0) (#31)
    by Joelarama on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:59:14 AM EST
    sees FDR vs. Carter, and why he thinks Obama is more like Carter.  Unless he or she simply means to contrast "success" and "failure."  In which case, yes, it's superficial.

    There isn't enough info for a serious comparison (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:04:46 AM EST
    at this stage, regardless of whether Salo meant success or failure.

    Its as superficial as comparing Obama to Lincoln and as about as useful too.



    But in 3 months we'll have (none / 0) (#33)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:09:11 AM EST
    a good idea whether Obama is the next FDR.

    possibly sooner if Gregg goes to Commerce (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:23:57 AM EST
    and we get 60 votes out of it AND Obama uses the super majority correctly.

    60 won't do (none / 0) (#39)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:04:49 PM EST
    I can't imagine our Senators ever voting in step as the Republican's do. With the batch we have we'd need at least 70 to 75 for hit 60.

    Isn't 80 the magic number? (none / 0) (#42)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:51:15 PM EST
    The composition of the house (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Salo on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:09:54 AM EST
    May be immune to GOP majorities

    I have absolutely (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:03:38 PM EST
    no idea what that sentence means.

    The districting (none / 0) (#41)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:29:43 PM EST
    precludes the GOP retaking the House in the short term is what I took from it.

    Could be true. I have not looked at the issue.


    But that's far from true (none / 0) (#46)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 10:09:01 AM EST
    The districting actually remains tilted toward the Republicans. That's the natural result of having so many VRA districts.

    Public opinion is already split on the (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by tigercourse on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:12:44 AM EST
    package with I think a slight lean against. You can bet that over the next months as the economy continues to decay, they will be pushing very hard and driving those "against" numbers up.

    The Republicans are taking a gamble that the economy isn't just going to bounce back in the near term. And I think that's a smart bet.

    I think we'll lose some house seats in 2010 (a bunch of the new reps were elected by the seat of their pants in really conservative districts) but I doubt Obama will lose in 2012. It took this country years to truly sour on Bush.

    That was only because of 9/11. (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:14:11 AM EST
    He was  on his way to becoming a forgettable one termer by August 2001.

    I think the economic crisis will function in (none / 0) (#9)
    by tigercourse on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:16:49 AM EST
    much the same way as 9/11 did. Huddle around the leader in tough times and hope he'll protect you.

    But there's a key difference (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Democratic Cat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:23:04 AM EST
    Bush benefitted because we weren't attacked after 9/11 (ignoring the anthrax attack, as everyone seems to).  So every day, people woke up and they were still alive, and they continued to rally around the Preseident. If the economy limps along for the next few years, people are going to wake up still jobless.  I think the state of the economy will not therefore serve as a rallying point in the same way as 9/11 did. Obama has to produce real improvement, real fast.  That's going to be hard to do.

    Well, the attitude he projects (none / 0) (#15)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:26:44 AM EST
    will matter. If the public believes he is doing his utmost, he will have a grace period. But I don't think the public will have much patience for a PPUS which produces no results. To stick with PPUS will be seen as frivolity.
    Mark my words, Obama will be attacked for initiating PPUS by Republicans.

    I agree with you (none / 0) (#17)
    by Democratic Cat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:29:48 AM EST
    and I think he'll probably get more of a grace period than someone else would have gotten. But yeah, he's going to have to produce. And you're right, I think people (and the media) talk about the PPUS as if it mattered, but when it comes down to it, people want results.

    That's not how it has worked in my (none / 0) (#11)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:20:33 AM EST

    I could be wrong. I often am. (none / 0) (#12)
    by tigercourse on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:21:18 AM EST
    Me too. Thank god the blogsphere (none / 0) (#18)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:38:03 AM EST
    is self-correcting.

    The Republicans were terrified (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:17:32 AM EST
    of losing the House, too. It's why they went to some pretty extreme redistricting efforts.

    I couldn't agree with you more (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by AlkalineDave on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:13:30 AM EST
    This is calculated well by the Republicans.  The more they stay away from this, the more it becomes a blurb in a 30 second campaign add or a speech on the trail.  (taking that it fails to do anything substantive)

    lesson of 1994 (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by souvarine on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:49:10 AM EST
    That to me is the lesson of 1994. Congressional Democrats were terrified they would do something to spook the voters and lose their jobs. They rejected Clinton's argument that good policy is good politics, and that the voters would reward them for doing something big on health care and punish them for failing. Turned out Clinton was right, Democratic Congressional incrementalism (and Moynihan's ego) doomed them in 1994, they lost their jobs and committee chairmanships.

    The situation is reversed now, Congress is much less craven and the President is the incrementalist. Those facing election in 2010 should realize they will be punished for not doing enough, not for trying to do too much.

    I agree with you, (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by dk on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:52:16 AM EST
    except perhaps for the part about Congress being much less craven now.  Pelosi and Reid seem pretty timid to me.

    Blame Game (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:51:24 AM EST
    The Republican's will continue to stone wall Obama until the policies begin to work (Hopefully for all of us). Then in true form, they'll take credit for them.

    If I remember correctly, they decided the financial success of the Clinton years was due to Reagan. The failures of Bush were because of Clinton. Does anyone see a pattern here. Democrat's just don't know how to play the blame game right.

    I don't know, I think (none / 0) (#23)
    by dk on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:56:31 AM EST
    the Democrats have been doing pretty well at the blame game lately.  Why do you think they won the 2006 and 2008 elections?

    The problem they have now is embracing their ideals.  They should be touting the virtues of massive government spending to fix the economy.  Instead, they are offering timid spending, and counterproductive tax cuts.  You can't blame the public for not really knowing what Democrats stand for when the Democratic leadership seems to be running away from what it should be standing for.


    I think they fell into it (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:06:07 AM EST
    I think it had more to do with reality smacking the voters in the face, than anything the Dem's did. Bush's incompetence couldn't remain hidden any longer.

    Fair enough. (5.00 / 0) (#27)
    by dk on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:13:28 AM EST
    Bush obviously did make it much easier for the Democrats to practice the blame game.

    The doesn't negate my argument, however, that the bigger problem the Democrats face is with their failure to affirmatively stand for something.


    It's easier (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:05:34 AM EST
    (especially for Dems) to argue that -"it's the other party's fault" than to argue why this is good policy.

    Time will tell on this.


    the dems won in 2006 mostly because the war (none / 0) (#45)
    by suzieg on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 09:17:47 AM EST
    was going  so badly imo

    Nobody will care who voted for (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:03:43 AM EST
    this bill or who voted against it if it doesn't work.  They'll nail the Democrats if it doesn't work and will forget that the Republicans voted against it if it does.

    I've always thought that this emphasis on process as opposed to results was a waste of time - and when the economic collapse really came into full relief for most Americans my belief that effective governance was more important that worrying about hurt feelings only grew that much stronger.

    Ironically, had this been a super bloody and nasty battle won over a better package that ended up really delivering results "immediately", I think that would have really elevated Obama and the Dems to a level that we probably can't even imagine - unless you are old enough to really remember FDR's popularity.  

    Americans respect people who lead with conviction.  That was all the "magic" Bush ever had with the public and had he made better decisions with respect to governance he would have gone down as one of the best rather than the worst imo.  For some reason Democrats don't understand this nuance from what I can tell.

    This stimulus package falls short by most accounts.  The bulk of the money isn't even released until FYs 2010 and 2011 which begs the question - "What are they waiting for?"  Surely, they don't think that this problem will solve itself with minimal government intervention do they?  I don't really even see them creating a floor with what is proposed and now we're hearing reports that the Senate Republicans are going to amend it ruthlessly.  So now what?

    Some people argue that a failed mutilated bill will be good for Obama and Democrats because it will show how bad the Republicans are, but I think that it will only anger people and make them think that Obama and Dems are no more valuable to them than the Republicans were.  They'll just think Obama is too weak to fix their problems and they'll find the strong voice in the political crowd (who will be some Republican telling them Rush Limaugh-esque lies about ineffective government, immigrants and tax cuts) and attach themselve to that person instead.

    The Dems must deliver.  It is time that they step up to the plate and take responsibility for their own ideas and actions - and stick by them regardless of the whiners, nay-sayers and those who seek to incite the cynicism that would further undermine our ability to overcome this economic crisis.

    That CBO report (none / 0) (#43)
    by JThomas on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:44:21 PM EST
    that indicated the money would not hit the economy until next year and beyond has been debunked and corrected by the CBO themselves..unfortunately, the GOP and others have latched onto it like it is fact despite the CBO's retraction.

    Right (none / 0) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 08:52:20 AM EST
    When it comes down to it, voters want what works.  They don't care who came up with the idea, especially when it comes to the economy.  If this stimulus works, the Dems can prance around and say "we told you so" and will probably keep Congress in 2010, and the WH in 2012.  If it doesn't, or at least if it doesn't in time for the elections, the voters will "throw the bums out" and start with new faces.

    Voters have a very short attention span, so if the Dems think that people care that ZERO Republicans voted for it, then they've got another thing coming.

    Seems clear enough to me (none / 0) (#19)
    by ruffian on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:43:25 AM EST
    Silver writes that "It is not clear why they would want this: the Republican brand, even under the best of circumstances, is not likely to be significantly rehabilitated by 2010. . . "

    Well, neither is the economy likely to be significantly rehabilitated by 2010, despite anystimulus package enacted now, let alone a watered down one. Opposing the stimulus was a no-brainer for the Republicans in terms of the 2010 time frame.

    Glenn Greenwald (none / 0) (#28)
    by oldpro on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:14:17 AM EST
    had a lot to say about this yesterday.

    nate is very good at data analysis (none / 0) (#34)
    by Turkana on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:14:26 AM EST
    which tends to make some people ignore his very mixed record at political analysis.

    Mixed? (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:17:59 AM EST
    I can't remember a time when he got something right.

    And really, what did his data analysis add recently (ever)?


    well... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Turkana on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:57:46 AM EST
    he did get a lot right, during the primaries. although people also ignore the fact that he got some key stuff wrong, too. but he does use very pretty graphics.

    Honestly, I can't remember (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:04:59 PM EST
    anything that he got right that wouldn't have been obvious either from basic polling or a little bit of superficial analysis.  

    But yes, he has graphics. . .


    Perfectly analyzed/said! (none / 0) (#44)
    by suzieg on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 09:11:17 AM EST