Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Republicans' procedural advantages

Matt Yglesias, on the Franken/Coleman fiasco:
I think that this highlights one of the most admirable things about the Republican congressional caucus. Both its leadership and its rank and file show a good deal more commitment to the substance of things and less concern about transient matters of appearance. Senate Republicans clearly understood that legislative outcomes in 2009 were a very important issue and focused their energy pretty decisively on playing an objectively weak hand to influence them. Senate Democrats, dealt a strong hand, spent an amazing amount of time fretting about process and superficial matters and only really buckled down in 2010 by which time their hand was much weaker.
It helps that few Republicans put any stock in what mainstream media outlets say about anything, but there's something to this. I've had a long-running theory that I don't really have any data to support, but the gist is basically that elite Republicans tend to be in touch with their supporters because their supporters resemble them a lot (i.e. both are whiter, older, and more frequently male) while elite Democrats are more like their elite Republican counterparts demographically than they are like their supporters. The Democratic obsession with process makes sense if one assumes that someone like Max Baucus doesn't really know what preoccupies a white Manhattan neurologist or a female Hispanic housekeeper in San Diego, and just assumes that he is doing what he needs to do to represent a generally Republican state. If that means spending months unsuccessfully trying to get Chuck Grassley to not talk about death panels...then that's what he's doing. It doesn't help anyone besides Max Baucus, but that all-for-one ethic strangely doesn't seem to apply much among Democrats in Congress. In some ways the Democrats' tendency to focus on local issues serves them well electorally (as Mr. Larison argues here), but there are drawbacks as well. And quite a few Democrats come from places like Montana that don't quite match up to typical Democratic districts.

In any event the ideal here is for both parties to respect the process. Republicans usually don't, so Democrats should feel free to change the rules in my opinion. Not to do so is the same as fighting with an arm behind your back.

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.