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Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Coming of the New Republican Minority and Obstructionism Du Jour

You actually have to give Republicans an A for three things: Sore loserism, continued vows of obstructionism, and sheer arrogant stupidity. They just lost in a debacle of an election. They can't claim it was an illegitimate election where the victor won a mere plurality, as President Clinton did in 1992, when he squeaked out 43 percent in what was a three way race. Indeed, Bush, who claimed "political capital" for his squeaker in 2004, had less claim to legitimacy than Obama's convincing 53% to 46% popular vote and 364 to 163 electoral votes. Obama can claim a genuine mandate for change, which is exactly the platform he ran on. He also had coattails, picking up three new members for the House of Representatives and a new senator from once reliably red Virginia alone. He carried North Carolina and gained a Democratic Senator there too. The public is hungry for genuine change. And it wants the change that Obama promised. There's nothing ambiguous about this, folks.

So what do the vanquished Republicans do?

First they are comforting themselves with a glass of warm venom, nasty recriminations, a refusal to face reality (which is actually nothing new for them) and a vow that the obstructionism which served them so well in the last two years will continue and grow more intense. After all, they may have lost in a blow out; but by God, they still have the filibuster.

So says Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel in a mean spirited piece "How To Block the Liberal Agenda."
Democrats won big on Tuesday but not big enough. The voters' rebuke of the GOP was brutal, though not so cruel as to hand Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the 60 votes they needed to grease a sweeping agenda. The GOP still owns a filibuster, and that is as big a factor in this new "era" as is our president-elect.
And then she adds
Mr. Obama and his party are meanwhile now the sole political proprietors of a major financial crisis. Revenues will contract, even as Mr. Obama promises tax cuts. That alone may temper ambitions on issues like health care, which Democrats may now have to approach piecemeal. But also expect to see the GOP rediscover a devotion to fiscal responsibility. Any Democratic proposal, for anything, will elicit howls of "deficit spending." Some Republicans are actually looking forward to January.

And let's not forget that the left has spent eight years helpfully showing Republicans how they might make life difficult. Democrats have insisted a filibuster for judicial and cabinet positions is "essential" and that a president "must" consult with the opposition. Mr. Obama himself voted to filibuster Bush picks. They don't call these things "precedents" for nothing. Democrats have also highlighted procedural tools that the right could now use to slow Senate business to a slug's pace.

So yes, it is a new day in Washington. Just don't go thinking it will be an easy one.
Actually, Ms. Strassel is right that it won't be easy. But it's her party that will suffer if it continues to play the childish game of obstructionism. That's not the same as principled opposition, which is not only the right but the duty of the opposition party.

Here's the thing to watch. Kimberley Strassel is signalling a well worn Republican strategy to foist the blame for the economic collapse onto the Democrats from day one. But it won't work because Obama is a pretty smart strategist himself. He's wisely resisting any efforts for him to start calling the shots on an economic recovery plan until he actually has the legal authority to institute the changes he wants. That means he will block the GOP's efforts to cast this as his economic crisis. Nope. After 8 years of Republican misrule, they still own it until January 21, 2009.

Once he's in office, Obama will offer his plan for recovery and with Rahm Emanuel to play bad cop, he will either get it through a Democratic Congress or maneuver the Republicans into looking like they are blocking the will of the people. I think that by picking Emanuel, Obama is signalling that he is willing to play hardball.

I also think it won't be difficult to make the case that Republican free market, anti-government, anti tax policies have failed. Indeed, they caused the problem. Obama is going to come in with a first class economic team to sell a new set of ideas. Now is the time to press for a real challenge to the prevailing conservative economic orthodoxies.

It is not coincidental that only a few months before the election, liberal economic professor and political columnist Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics. He has symbolically displaced the era of Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer. If Kimberley Strassel and the conservative crowd at WSJ want to continue to defend the old orthodoxies so be it. Every time laissez faire economics is tried, it fails. Every time sensible regulation, government action, and public - private partnerships are tried they produce prosperity and security. A return to some Keynsian ideals is long overdue. And heaven help the Republican ideologues who get in the way of genuine progress.

1 comment:

Isophorone said...

Actually, you should look at Democrat obstructionism. Who wanted to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Republicans! (The Democrats blocked this.) Who wanted to expand our domestic sources of energy? Republicans! (The Democrats blocked this.) And now you are going to cry about Republican obstructionism? Certainly, you know the meaning of "chutzpah."