Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just Like Obama?

Dave Weigel says that new Republican Governors who have been pressing for unpopular measures are only emulating the president:
Now, Walker, Scott, and Kasich are doing exactly what they should do, and exactly what Barack Obama did in 2009. They won power; they're using the power to push through structural political and economic changes that will be hard to reverse. They're making the same bet Obama did -- if they do this, the economy will rebound, and their political opponents will have been weakened in a way they may never recover from. If the economy does rebound in 2012, they're going to be in better shape politically. But so will Obama. In the long run, breaking down the power of public unions is going to help Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin. In the short run, if it fires up activists and alienates independents, it puts the next GOP presidential candidate in a tougher spot.
Really? I don't think so. The clearly analogue for what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin would have been card check for the Democrats; they didn't do that. Nor did they pass a campaign finance bill to tilt the future playing field (Democrats did eventually push fairly hard for a minor campaign finance bill after Citizens United, but it wasn't even on the agenda before that). Nor did Democrats take advantage of their temporary 60 vote supermajority in the Senate to flood the federal courts with liberal judges. For that matter, there's nothing magic about 60, and Democrats certainly could have refashioned the Senate into a majority-rules institution, and then passed whatever they wanted even when they "only" had 58 or 59 votes.

The Democrats didn't even bother to secure two solid votes in the Senate by passing DC statehood.

The Democrats did try to take advantage of their temporary majorities in 2009-2010 to pass substantive legislation that Democratic partisans, activists, and aligned interest groups strongly supported, but I can't really think of anything that involved future electoral advantage. Remember, despite what movement conservative alarmists say, there's no real reason to believe that passing ACA is good for the Democrats (in electoral terms) in the long run. One can make an argument that the budget side of what Walker (for example) did is similar to what Obama and the Democrats did, but the institutional side of it, the attack on the unions per se, is exactly what Obama and the Democrats chose not to do.


  1. I'd disagree with Weigel on another point. If the economy rebounds strongly, that will help Obama and the Democrats across the country. Voters tend to reward the president's party -- not the governor's -- for good economic news.

  2. The fact the dems didn't do any of the things you mention just shows how stupid they are in their understanding of power.

  3. Anon,

    Not necessarily. It's an open question about whether it's better to use your time in office to pass the substantive things you want, or to do things to hang on to power. There's a pretty good argument that the Democrats have taken better advantage of their chances as far as substance is concerned.

  4. I suppose that you might be talking about the health care bill. Surely you can see that once the scotus gets ahold of it it's going to be obliterated.....don't you? And what of the rest of the substance that they passed......I bet the republicans are chipping away at it right now (financial reform say?) and it won't be long before everything they did is pretty much undone. So much for substance. Now suppose that they had made the senate comply with constitutional rules.....51 votes wins. They'll lose in 2012 but might gain it back in 2014 when they would be in better shape to pass more stuff. As it is now they'll never be in the position they were in. And we've seen time and time again that republicans don't even need to be in the majority to get what they want. Sorry but the dems are just weak and will never understand anything about getting and holding onto power. That's why people don't like them.


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