Monday, July 18, 2011

Winning By Losing

By Mike Dorf

In my new column on Verdict, I unpack Senator Mitch McConnell's "last-choice" plan for addressing the debt limit impasse and also analyze a few constitutional issues it raises.  (Bottom Line: It's not seriously vulnerable to constitutional challenge.)  Here I want to record some thoughts on the broader strategy of deliberate capitulation.

As I note in the column, the McConnell proposal is basically a complete capitulation to President Obama.  Why would Senator McConnell think it's better to lose completely than to get some sort of compromise that goes some way towards the Republicans' goals of substantial budget cuts--especially when the compromise that Obama was offering essentially met their budget-cutting goals, while containing only relatively modest tax increases?
One possibility is simple political reality.  For their own reasons, many Republican House members are unwilling to raise the debt ceiling at all, or unwilling to do so without what they can sell as a total victory, even though some of those same House Republicans may be willing to accept the political cover that the McConnell proposal gives them--the ability to say that they didn't vote to raise the debt limit.  Of course, that raises the question of why they think the McConnell proposal gives them cover, but let's put that issue aside.  I want to focus on a different possibility.

The other kind of political cover that the McConnell plan provides has been described by Senator McConnell himself.  By effectively giving President Obama everything  he wants on the debt ceiling, Republicans avoid taking "ownership" of a bad economy, going into an election year.  Assuming the factual predicates turn out to be true--an admittedly questionable assumption--this makes quite a bit of sense.  Indeed, it's a little surprising we don't see it more often.  That is, one could imagine a savvy minority political party deliberately going along with some legislative program they oppose so that they can turn around later and blame the majority party for having messed up.

We don't see this approach very often in part because there's a political price to pay.  Ideological party loyalists would not want to see their representatives voting for programs they deem anathema.  Centrist voters might be fooled by the minority party's apparent willingness to cooperate (independents like that sort of "bipartisanship"), but there's an even better way to appeal to centrists: Obstruct the majority party so that they don't get to do what they want, then pretend that they did, and then blame them.

This is basically what happened on the stimulus in 2009.  Keynesian economists were warning that the stimulus Congress passed would do some good but was too small to really jump-start the economy in a sustainable way.  And they were right.  So the right and center-right did everything they could to minimize the size of the stimulus--out of a combination of sincere but misplaced fears about the budget and political cynicism.  Now they routinely refer to the "failed stimulus," even though a real stimulus wasn't tried.  President Obama played into their hands by shaving down his requested stimulus from the get-go, so that he can't come back now and say something like "I wanted a much bigger stimulus."

So judged against the recent political strategy of obstruction-plus-finger-pointing, the new strategy of capitulate-then-blame is refreshingly honest.  Two cheers for Senator McConnell!


michael a. livingston said...

Yes Obama will "win" by getting a deal that is 80 or 90 instead of 100 percent spending cuts. But isn't he basically governing as a moderate Republican now? And might people not decide they would just as soon have the real thing?

Michael C. Dorf said...

I totally agree with Michael's descriptive assessment but maybe not his tentative prediction. This is very reminiscent of Clinton post-1994 midterms. Clinton even referred to himself, only half-jokingly, as an Eisenhower Republican. The same pretty clearly seems true of Obama by now. The reason I think the prediction could be wrong is that Clinton got re-elected as a moderate Republican. Of course, the last actual moderate Republican we had was George H.W. Bush, and he didn't get re-elected in a stagnant economy, leading me to think that "it's the economy stupid." So unless the Republicans nominate Bachmann, Gingrich, or another far-right candidate, it's theirs to lose, absent a dramatic rebound in the next 15 months.

Coach Bags & Chanel Handbags said...

Even if one thinks that it's okay for the government to order everyone to see the doctor, an order to exercise does appear to go to far. It looks a lot like conscription, which, if justified in wartime, is still extraordinary. Further, it is not clear how a mandatory exercise regime could possibly be enforced absent something like Orwellian surveillance.

cheap wow gold
Tera gold
Tera account
Tera gold
Runescape gold

Biber said...

I worry that in another case this eschewal of dynamic and purposive statutory interpretation could lead to unwarranted results.
runescape gold|buy runescape gold|cheap runescape gold|RS Gold|Cheap RS Gold|Buy RS Gold|eden gold|buy eden gold|cheap eden gold|buy tera gold|tera online gold|cheap tera gold

Cicy said...

As I note in the column, McConnell's proposal is basically a complete capitulation to President Obama. Why Senator McConnell thinks it's better to lose than to have a sort of compromise that goes a little toward the Republican goal of significant budget cuts - especially when the compromise that Barack Obama met their budget targets mainly offered reduction, while tax increases are relatively modest?WOW Items Gold Buy WOW Items Cheap WOW Items Tera Gold Buy Tera Gold Cheap WOW GoldBuy WOW Gold WOW GoldTera Gold

RS Gold said...

One additional place to Acquire RS Gold
is a Grim Maul Testimonial even though it will demand a bunch of you in case you are wanting to to Get
RS Gold in this way. You can do this pretty very well Buy Aion Kina
on the other hand may find the idea onerous to acquire
Aion Goldalone!

Unknown said...

A Variety Of dog clothes For Most Dog Breeds There are more than 160 dog breeds that
exist and each unique individual has its own dog clothing design.Whenever you want to choose the right pet clothing for your respective dogs, learn some background of your pet and familiarize their actions to assess of what is appropriate dog clothing for them.
By Author:

Unknown said...

Very awesome post , i am really impressed with it a lot

فوائد الزنجبيل
فوائد الرمان فوائد الحلبة فوائد البصل فوائد الزعتر فوائد زيت السمسم علاج البواسير فوائد اليانسون فوائد الكركم قصص جحا صور يوم الجمعه علامات الحمل تعريف الحب حياة البرزخ فوائد الزبيب

seoamine said...

thanks so much for that great blog and thanks also for accepting my links thanks
طريقة عمل الدونات طريقة عمل البان كيك طريقة عمل الكنافة طريقة عمل البسبوسة طريقة عمل الكيك طريقة عمل عجينة البيتزا فوائد القرفه

Unknown said...

thanks so much i like very so much your post
حلى الاوريو الفطر الهندي صور تورته حلى قهوه طريقة عمل السينابون طريقة عمل بلح الشام بيتزا هت كيكة الزبادي حلا سهل صور كيك عجينة العشر دقائق

jaring futsal dan rumput futsal said...

Nice article, thanks for the information. It's very complete information. I will bookmark for next reference
jaring futsal | jaring golf | jaring pengaman proyek |
jaring pengaman bangunan | jaring pengaman gedung said...

علاج الزكام
اعراض القولون
كيفية التيمم
كيفية صلاة الوتر
كيفية الوضوء
تمارين كيجل
علاج سرعة القذف
علاج الكحة
اعراض مرض السكر
علاج القمل
دعاء قبل النوم
دعاء قضاء الحاجة
طريقة عمل عجينة البيتزا
طريقة عمل بلح الشام
فوائد البقدونس
دعاء المظلوم
دعاء للمريض
دعاء النوم
دعاء ليلة القدر
دعاء المطر
دعاء ختم القرآن مكتوب
دعاء الصباح مكتوب
دعاء الرزق
دعاء الزواج
دعاء الهم والحزن

دعاء الجمعة
سوق الذهب بجدة
دعاء الهم والحزن
دعاء النوم