Preparing the Battlespace

by Dave Schuler on September 6, 2012

If President Obama is re-elected will Congressional Republicans seek common cause with him in his second term? That’s what Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel says will happen:

The year after Clinton won a second term, Emanuel boasted, he and the GOP balanced the budget, reached agreement on health care coverage for children, and cut other deals.

So what’s that got to do with what Obama might do in a second term, given the prevailing gridlock in Washington.

“Elections…have consequences,” the mayor said. “If the president wins reelection, I think the Republicans will finally, after four years of trying to beat him, will try to work with him. The American people will have delivered their verdict.”

This post hoc propter hoc analysis has a number of problems with it. First, today’s Congressional Republicans are very much different than those of 16 years ago. They are much more ideological, they are much more activist, and the party, always more united than the Democrats, is even more united now.

Second, a growing economy produces different political dynamics than today’s stagnant one does.

That fatuous response ignores one very important fact: there is not just one election. Each of the 535 members of Congress won their own elections. Their constituents have delivered their verdicts, too. If President Obama wins re-election it will be because the voters believed he was a better choice than Mitt Romney not because they thought he was the best of all possible choices. They will have made other choices, too, in electing their Congressional representatives, senators, governors, and so on. The branches of government are co-equal. Congress is not subordinate to the presidency. If anything it’s the other way around.

Since Rahm Emanuel is not an idiot, why would he predict something that is so obviously not going to happen? I think he’s preparing the political battlespace for the next four years and for 2016 (when I expect him to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency).

If President Obama is re-elected, the squabbles between the Congressional Democrats and the Congressional Republicans and between the president and the Congressional Republicans will continue in full vigor. Clearly, Democrats are preparing to campaign against intransigent, obstructionist Republicans. I think that this is the strongest argument for electing Mitt Romney. If you liked the 112th Congress (that would be all 12% of you, voters), you’ll love the 113th!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw September 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

I agree with this analysis, also see Ramesh Ponnuru on the topic of no mandate except for gridlock.

One of the things I try to do is watch what legislative candidates are saying/doing in swing electorates. I listen to some of the Missouri political ads during Cards games. (I sense McCaskill is trying to run to the right of the Republican on defense-related matters; the Democratic governor is running austerity ads for re-election)

Two years ago I watched an adjoining “Democratic-leaning” Congressional district go to a Republican that largely campaigned on not raising taxes during a recession, against the Dream Act and complaining that the stimulus bankrupted the country without helping remote districts like theirs (all the while brandishing a union membership card). I’ll probably try to watch what Scott Walker is saying in Massachusetts as well.

PD Shaw September 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

In terms of historical analogies, since FDR, this country has re-elected five Presidents after serving a full term. Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Did any of them have as poor of a record of bi-partisan legislation during their first term as Obama? (I’m trying to cast this question in a manner that does place all the blame on the President and none on Congress) The probable result of Obama being re-elected with a Republican Congress based upon the last four years seems quite unusual.

steve September 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I think you are correct about Romney getting more cooperation. We know that the GOP values the POTUS office enough to pass Medicare Part D. I think he will be able to get the Tea Party to come to a deal. I can see him getting a deal that has revenue increases and spending cuts that Obama cannot. What I dont know is if the Dems try to set a new record for filibusters. They dont seem to be captured by the far left of their party, but that can change. If they decide to filibuster everything, figuring that keeping Romney from a second term is their primary goal, then Romney wont pass anything either.

Steve

TastyBits September 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

@steve

… [Dems] dont seem to be captured by the far left of their party …

What would they do differently if they were captured?

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