Ezra Klein wrote an article this morning, The White House Doesn’t Think it Can Prevent a Government Shutdown. It is all about how the White House is ringing alarm bells for business interests that the Republicans really are crazy enough to close the government and throw in a nice default sweetener. The idea is that hopefully, the the big Republican fundraisers will apply some pressure and stop the madness.
As far as all of this goes, I believe that the administration should always have taken this approach. The Republicans only respond to power and giving them power by allowing them to use the Debt Ceiling as leverage was a bad idea. But Klein mentioned something that greatly concerns me:
This is a big part of the problem with Democratic politicians. I spent months after last year’s election ranting about how the Republicans were not going to moderate just because Obama won a solid victory. What’s more, I argued that they shouldn’t moderate for that reason. National elections are national elections. Just because Obama won didn’t mean that any given congressional district voted for him. Clearly, the Republicans (Rightly!) didn’t listen to the idiot pundits. But when the situation was reversed, I guess the Democrats did. Of course, that’s also what they did when Reagan became president. We would have a much better country today if they had continued to represent their constituencies rather than yielding to Reagan’s supposed mandate.
But the situation was even worse when Obama and his people were thinking that the 2010 elections were a mandate to cut social spending. In fact, the situation was exactly the opposite. The Republicans did well during that election because they got the people to think that Obama had cut Medicare coverage. So these people weren’t voting for the Republicans because they wanted more cuts—they were voting for the Republicans because they wanted less cuts—especially on entitlement programs! And remember, that was Obama’s “grand bargain”: cut entitlement programs in exchange for higher taxes. There is no way that the people voted for that!
Democratic politicians are always looking for opportunities to turn right—to move their policies closer to the Republicans’ extreme and unpopular positions. In this sense, liberalism is dead in the United States. When the people rise up and vote for what they think are liberal politicians, all they end up with are moderate policies. Ted Kennedy was still alive and the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate when the White House offered up a pathetically underfunded stimulus that was one-third tax cuts that aren’t very effective anyway. And in the early discussion of healthcare reform, there was no serious discussion of a single payer system or even much support for a public option. From the very beginning it was the Republican healthcare plan. That’s what we get from our modern Democratic Party when it controls all the branches of government by a wide margin: Republican policies that get no Republican votes.
After everything that has happened and some quite terrible stuff that probably will happen, I won’t be shocked if the people vote the Republicans back into office. As a practical matter, they cause the government to grind along in the worst way possible. At least they are hypocritical enough to do a better job when they are in power. If Mitt Romney were in office, we would probably have had some kind of jobs program by now. Sure, it would have been inefficient and larded up with deficit expanding tax cuts that the Democrats would feel compelled to fix through more spending cuts once they were back in office. But it would have done a lot of good nonetheless. So if the people think that’s a better thing than paralysis and at best moderate to conservative policy from Democrats, I wouldn’t fault them for it.