TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012
What Brooks said isn’t quite wrong: In 1948, Harry Truman ran for re-election against “the do-nothing Congress.”
In 2012, Barack Obama didn’t run for re-election against the obstructionist Congress.
This may reflect a difference in temperament. But here’s the other problem: If Obama told the truth about Congress, it might go somewthing like his:
Re-elect me and we’ll get nothing done! Elect Mitt Romney to the White House and he has a good solid chance!
Last night, Kevin Drum slammed David Brooks for voicing that italicized outlook. Here’s the problem: The outlook Brooks expresses today isn’t exactly wrong.
Brooks envisions a re-elected Obama stymied by the same old obstructions. (He describes Obama's agenda as "moderate and sensible.") On the other hand, he envisions a President Romney managing to get things done through the help of centrist Democrats.
He doesn't explicitly say that. But that's how it would have to proceed.
Here’s the bad news: Unless Obama uses the fiscal cliff to give himself all-new-and-improved leverage against congressional Republicans, the picture Brooks paints isn't exactly wrong. This has always been the downside to running against the obstructionist Congress.
For ourselves, we would have liked to see someone tell the public, in a big fulsome way, that they actually have an obstructionist Congress—that their Congress has been actively trying to undermine economic recovery. But that would require a political discourse light-years beyond the one we actually have.
Drum is right about what Brooks said. Unfortunately, barring a new approach, Brooks is probably right about the workings of Congress. Here's where we're afraid Brooks is wrong, and perhaps being disingenuous:
Brooks pictures Romney shape-shifting his way to the center-right. There is no reason to assume he would do that.
We'll guess he could probably succeed working from the plain old right. We'll guess that Brooks could picture that too if he'd just give himself the chance.
Rural rules, or the way the Senate works: In part, this reflects the way the Senate favors the GOP, given our current political alignments. There are very few blue-state Republicans in the Senate, but quite a few red-state Democrats. That’s because every state gets the same two votes in the Senate—and at present, the smaller rural states tend to be conservative.
Little Wyoming gets two votes. So does big liberal California. If you can’t elect Democrats from the red states, you can’t elect enough Democrats to compete in the Senate at all.
In 2000, Gore narrowly won the nationwide popular vote—but he only won 20 states in the process (or 21, if you count Florida). As our nation aligns at present, Senate logic strongly favors the GOP.