Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Now Tell Me What the * Am I Supposed To Do?

Speaking of the DADT/DREAM Act vote, Greg Sargent argues:
The GOP just blocked the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the Senate, and the immediate conclusion to be drawn is that this is yet more proof that GOP obstructionism works brilliantly. It fires up the GOP base, while simultaneously demoralizing Dems who want their leaders to prevail despite the GOP tactics.
Well, maybe.  The problem is that while the Democrats are in fact losing (apparently) on this one, that hasn't always been the case, to say the least, during this Congress.  When the Democrats did pass the stimulus and health care reform, the result was...a fired up GOP base, and if not a demoralized group of Democrats, at least no noticeable surge in Dem enthusiasm.  Same results!  While I think it's true that Republican rejectionism has prevented passage of some bills (and thus has some important substantive consequences), I'd stick with structural reasons and chronic Democratic habits to explain the effects Sargent is trying to explain.  I'm really not convinced at all that rejectionism does the GOP much electoral good beyond that.


  1. Jonathan--

    Back in the Health Care debacle, someone on Slate suggested that the Dems hold a secret 3 a.m. session of the Senate, in which they could pass the bills they want. Could they really do that? With Robert Byrd gone, I don't think they need to worry about any rule sticklers on their side.

    Or, they could just contest the rules:


    I can't think of anything that would excite the Dems more than a showdown with the Republicans on their abuse of the rules. At this point, the Dems aren't going to see 60 votes in the Senate for some time, and I suspect that they won't be brave enough to overturn the filibuster in the next Congress, if they still have control.

    What would be the downside of a structural/procedural fight like this one?

  2. Health care reform was a major accomplishment, and so was the stimulus, but the reality is that both were moderate, compromised pieces of legislation. And, though you continue to ignore it, the reality is that the GOP is looking at historic electoral gains in November.

    Given that, how can you possibly suggest that obstructionism has been anything other than wildly successful for the GOP?

    Just consider the alternative for the GOP -- that is, cooperation with Dems on legislation. How could the results have possibly been better for the GOP in that scenario? We'd still have a watered-down stimulus and health care reform, but we'd probably also have watered-down energy legislation and maybe even watered-down immigration reform. It would be the most productive (and most liberal) session of Congress in history, and the Dems would obviously be facing smaller electoral losses.

  3. Dems would obviously be facing smaller electoral losses.

    After passing legislation jacking up energy prices? I don't think so.

  4. The obstructionism is slowly killing the GOP. The only question is are they undermining the entire political system faster than they are destroying themselves.

  5. Really? You found Chait's analysis in the "Doughface" article convincing? I would think that most political scientists would find that piece to be a fine example of the kind of impressionistic, conventional wisdom-spouting, point-of-view-laden-argument-without-data that is probably often annoying to practitioners of your discipline.

    Chait is a fairly moderate Democrat and Obama supporter who is extremely bothered by many to his left (he says so time and time again). That he would construct an argument that suggests the liberals he dislikes are a big problem for Obama is completely unsurprising, but it's based on nothing but a selective presentation of facts driven by his core opinion on the matter. I could just as easily construct a counterargument by selecting different facts the presentation of which is driven by my opinion--indeed a number of people have done just that, and there's no way to reconcile these different arguments or empirically demonstrate which one is right.

    It's obviously fine if you personally agree with what Chait is saying (many do), but let's not pretend it's a worthy-of-citation "explanation" for anything--it's a deeply held political belief expressed in the form of a short polemic and should be read and referred to as such.

  6. Also I'm slightly confused by the KRS-One reference in the title of the post, but I like it!

  7. Anon,

    A secret midnight session to pass major legislation would be massively anti-democratic and seen as such by every neutral observer. Every single Dem Senator would get blasted for it by everyone but the most intense partisans...we have no precedent, but basically the danger would be perceived to be so great that there's no way they would do it. Now, as for simply changing the rules during the session by majority vote: the GOP would complain, and editorial writers and a lot of pundits would probably side with the Republicans, but it would blow over soon enough. However, it runs into the reality that the Dems don't have the votes to do it.


    Yes, Dems had to compromise on those two things. My point is that if everything except passage of the perfect, uncompromised liberal wish list would produce the same reaction, then GOP obstruction isn't the cause of the reaction. Oh, and even then, obviously the GOP reaction is at least as intense, and I'm sort of guessing that if Obama had passed a $1.5T stimulus and a health care bill with the strongest public option on the table, liberals would still be only modestly more enthusiastic than they are now (aside from any actual effects of the larger stimulus; if in fact a larger stimulus had passed and produced solid economic growth and dropping unemployment, then the enthusiasm gap would indeed be smaller).


    The big disagreement I'd have with Chait is that I think the exact thing happens on the conservative side; purists are always disappointed with their president (certainly true of Ike, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Bush. I guess Hoover, too!).

  8. As for BDP, I was reacting to a Jamelle Bouie tweet, but thanks for noticing. I actually do get frustrated when no one notices (or at least says anything) about my various music reference post titles. Granted, some of them are obscure, but not all of them (are the dB's obscure, BTW? Had one of those last month).

  9. My personal belief is that if Obama and the Democratic Congress did everything or most things that liberals and progressives wanted, the result would be liberals and progressives staying home because they got what they wanted.

  10. Where I'd rephrase is that I think the chronic Democratic habits are structurally produced (simply because the Democratic tent is bigger than the Republican tent and because the general goal is change vs not change, and not change is much easier to define and meet.)

  11. The situation is harming both the GOP and the Dems.
    Each are trying to stay on their own path, while trying to destroy the others'. At the end of the day, its benefiting neither of them and ultimately harming us, their constituents.
    It really sucks to see these politicians, who otherwise would be cranking out bills and meaningful debate, bicker and fight just because there's an election looming. I really can't help but think that the GOP's purity test is at the root of this rush to party orthodoxy.

    -Javs (http://ourdaftworld.blogspot.com/)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?