Republican Death Spiral?
Nate Silver argues that we are seeing “The Republican Death Spiral,” as House Republicans vote against issues ranging from the stimulus package to delaying digital TV to a bill encouraging more gender equity lawsuits.
As I have opined before, the Democratic message will essentially be one of two things in 2010:
- Obama’s accomplished X, Y and Z and showed the country the way forward, let’s give him leaders in Congress who can continue to deliver for the middle class, or,
- Obama accomplished X, but he couldn’t accomplish Y and Z because the Republicans obstructed those measures to protect the special interests … let’s put partisanship behind us and elect leaders in Congress who can represent the common good.
One can understand the Republicans betting against #1, which won’t work unless the economy recovers. But in so doing, they seem to be writing the Democrats’ taglines for them on #2, the partisanship message. Of course, this is not necessarily an easy hand for the Democrats to play: they at once have to maintain the continued pretense/appearance of bipartisanship while at the same time attacking them for their non-cooperation.
The problem with that analysis is the presumption that going along with Obama is somehow politically useful. It seems to me that the following set of options and outcomes obtain:
|Republican Vote||Policy Outcome||Political Result|
|Yes||Good||Obama Gets Credit, Republicans Nothing|
|Yes||Bad||Obama Gets Cover, Republicans Nothing|
|No||Good||Obama Gets Credit + Issue, Republicans Lose|
|No||Bad||Obama Gets Excuse, Republicans Get Issue|
None of them are particularly attractive for the GOP, frankly. The opposition party is invariably in the position of being reactive. They seldom win on their own, having to rely on the governing party to drop the ball.
No matter what they do, Obama gets credit for good policy outcomes and either cover or an excuse for bad outcomes. Politically, then, it makes the most sense for Republicans to vote on an issue-by-issue basis considering their ideological preferences, the interests of their own constituents, and the likely policy outcomes.
In terms of the stimulus, the House Republicans have sent a strong message that they’re opposed to simply throwing money around. Further, they’ve identified particularly egregious bits of pork barrel spending that they can campaign against in 2010.
As Steven Taylor notes, they’re not done voting yet. They’ll get at least one more bite at the apple once the Senate passes their legislation — eventually, something will pass the Senate — and the conference committee hammers out a compromise bill. House Republicans can then vote their conscience and interests on that bill, claiming that they’ve made the bill better by standing up for principle while still having the parts of the bill they don’t like to blame if things don’t turn around.