Thursday, January 29, 2009

A tale of two chambers

Daniel Larison offers his take on the GOP opposition to the bailout:
Indeed, the sudden unanimous opposition of House Republicans to this bill mainly accomplishes one thing, which is to remind everyone of how gutlessly the Republican leadership acquiesced to whatever the Bush administration wanted and how they only managed to discover some interest in resisting massive expenditures when someone from the other party is in the White House. This highlights the past fecklessness and opportunism of the current Republican leadership. Given the current mood in the country, the House GOP in ‘10 will probably be received in the country about as well as the House GOP was received during the ‘98 midterms. The lesson to draw from the Democrats’ defeat in 2002 is not that cooperation with the White House loses the opposition party seats in the next elections, but that challenging a very popular President on a major piece of legislation (especially when the legislation is also popular) usually ends up costing the opposition party seats.

He actually opposes the bailout, which I think is a good idea that could get better (and hopefully will, since the need to get Republicans on board has passed). I tend to think he is right on the politics, though. It is unclear how the GOP benefits from mass opposition to the stimulus, especially when it is quite popular with the public. I've heard the argument that, by backing it, they wouldn't be able to use its failure--if it fails--as an issue in 2010. Why not? After all, Democrats backed the Iraq War and they still campaigned against it in 2006 and 2008, and gained considerable traction in my opinion. Why couldn't a Republican in 2010 say, "Hey, we tried it Obama's way, and we hoped it would work. But it didn't, so elect us because we were right!" Actually, that would be a much stronger argument to make, as just mindlessly opposing everything Democrats do just makes you look like easily dismissed cranks who would vote against anything the Obama administration favors.

I'm not a huge fan of Mitch McConnell (though I readily admit he's a far more talented politician than Harry Reid, our hapless leader) but he also appears to be smarter than John Boehner. Notice how, aside from Jim DeMint, not too many Senate Republicans have been complaining about things like contraception in the stimulus? My guess is that a good chunk of Senate Republicans will support the bill, and there is a reason for this: Boehner doesn't really have any power. The GOP can't do much, the Dems have a big House majority and can pass whatever they want. Now, as Obama was offering Boehner influence the latter's actions are pretty stupid, as without it being given to him he has none.

McConnell, on the other hand, works in the Senate, where getting 60 votes is often necessary. When one assumes that both Boehner and McConnell are going to want to appear to be in charge (even if they're not), it makes sense that Boehner will move hard to the right with his caucus (which he is unlikely to push to the center), while McConnell will move more toward the center with his, which contains a lot of moderate, deal-making, and blue state representing Senators. And I can imagine a scenario such as with EFCA where the GOP lets it pass if only Obama drops the card check provision. That way, McConnell is a conservative hero and labor gets a big win, and Obama could even fix some of the problems with respect to intimidation of labor that exist in current labor law. Everybody wins!

A lot of people seem to think the Senate will be the tough nut to crack to pass Obama's policies. If that's the case, then there's not too much to worry about. I could be wrong, but I suspect that human vanity will be a factor here.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.