Running To The Right Won’t Work

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics might just have the most absurd headline I’ve seen all month: “It's Time for Moderate House Democrats to Stand Up to Obama.”

I’m more conservative than most in the progressive blogosphere, and yet even I think this story is ridiculous. Cost writes:

If their constituents ultimately disapprove, moderate House Democrats shouldn't expect Barack Obama to give a damn. That's not his style. He likes to give lip service to consensus - but when you read the fine print, he inevitably defines any divergent viewpoints as out-of-bounds. He did it on the stimulus. He's doing it on health care. If moderate House Democrats don't stand up to him now, he'll do it on cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and who knows what else. Sooner or later, their constituents will elect representatives who will stand up to the President.

And those new representatives will probably be Republicans.

There are at least two things wrong with this argument. First, moderate House Democrats are ALREADY standing up to Obama: 24 House Democrats voted against both health insurance reform and cap-and-trade. Another 15 more voted against just health insurance reform, and Bart Stupak is threatening to stop the whole thing again because even Ben Nelson isn’t pro-life enough for him. In the Senate, Max Baucus almost destroyed health insurance reform’s chances by spending too much time pointlessly negotiating with Grassley and Enzi. Nelson joined with Mary Landrieu to even further slow the bill, this after working with Arlen Specter to drastically pare down the stimulus. How is this NOT standing up to Obama?

Second, despite Cost’s claim that this behavior is key to their re-election, none of this obstructionism has helped or will help the Blue Dogs politically. In fact, they’re in more danger than are liberals who supported every bill. Of the six Democratic Senators with disapproval ratings above 50%, two are scandal-plagued and four are moderate-to-conservative (Lieberman, Lincoln, Begich, and the rudderless, pro-life Reid). We saw this in 1994, too - of the 34 incumbent House Democrats beaten by Republicans, only 1 was in a district where Bill Clinton won at least 50% of the vote in 1992, and only 7 were from districts where he ran ahead of his 43% national average.  

The fact is, neither moderate nor conservative voters will say, “Hurrah, my Democratic Congressman opposed Obama!” They will say either a) “My Congressman is a Democrat, so’s Obama, how dare he!” or b) “I like my Congressman, but I just can’t support another Pelosi majority.

If Obama’s agenda goes down in flames, Democrats go down in flames. Let’s think about this: House Republicans are united, and they’re doing a great job spinning in the media and surging in the polls. They are in their best generic ballot position during a Democratic administration since 1946. Democrats, on the other hand, are splintered, and can’t gain much traction in the polls or correct the media’s record on either science or health care details.

Voters don’t hate progressivism; they hate the political process that encapsulates both parties. This election isn’t over, but if Democrats follow Mr. Cost’s advice, it will be.

Tags: Barack Obama, 2010 midterm elections, Moderates, Real Clear Politics (all tags)



Jay Cost

Jay Cost is a conservative who likes to pretend he is a moderate. I could literally sense his disappointment when McCain lost to Obama.

by vecky 2010-03-09 11:54PM | 0 recs
THe outcome

I sure do smell 1994 when I read things like this type of recommendations of what Democrats should do.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-10 02:02AM | 0 recs

So some of the most Moderate Democrats are below the 50% support mark along with 2 Dems having scandals. Being Below the 50% mark for incumbent politicians who are normally reelected at 90% or more levels is horrible there is no sugar coating it. 

    Still Sen Lieberman it should be noted has stood up to or rather stabbed Obama in the back at every opportunity so nobody can blame Joe's low numbers on him not opposing Obama.

Senator Reid however is a team player why are his numbers down?

Whats the commonthread binding the two?

by mOropeza 2010-03-10 02:57AM | 0 recs

Good analysis.  To elaborate, it should be recalled that in 1994 liberals did far better in surviving the debacle of that year than moderates and centrists did.

by demjim 2010-03-10 10:44AM | 0 recs
Begich is scandel-ridden, too

Only 35% of Alaskan's view Mark Begich favorably.  Voting against this particular style of HC "reform" would help his image in Alaska.  Begich campaigned on being "as independent as Alaska."

by Alaska 2010-03-10 12:56PM | 0 recs
RE: Begich is scandel-ridden, too

Ah, yes, because not voting exactly the way you expected him to is SUCH a scandal. Corruption, sex, bribery, and unpopular votes. What's the difference, right?

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-10 02:20PM | 0 recs
RE: Running To The Right Won’t Work

The people elect leaders, and expect them to lead. Obama's weakness at this point is that he isn't seen as a leader who stands up for what he believes, but as a sausagemaker. He has captured most of the discontent of the people on healthcare because he ran away from his campaign promises in favor letting the unsavory legislative process fill up the entire health care debate. He announces a decision, then looks like a scared puppy when the decision is challenged, and accepts any compromise, no matter how humiliating. This is the opposite of leadership.


The people expect the same thing--leadership--from their representatives. If you haved believed in a set of principles, and campaigned on them, you need to stand up bravely and fight for them. People respect a fighter, even when the fighter loses.

This is why Cost's advice is so backwards. The Democrats already have a reputation for being wobbly on basic principles. Running to the right will only reinforce that reputation among the Demcratic base, disgust independents, and fail to convince a single Republican.

If Democrats want to win, they should stand for the public option, for reforming student loans, for very tough (indeed, punitive) financial reform, and shift back to job creation. The Democratic leadership could announce a Social Security reform package of modest delaying in qualifying to take place down the road, combined with raising the cap for payroll deductions. They could then announce "Social Security is fully funded for the next 60 years."

There should also be regular announcements about how much of the financial bailout has been repaid. It is a huge amount. I bet that most Americans, if asked, would say that the money all disappeared.

by anoregonreader 2010-03-10 09:33PM | 1 recs
Jay Cost FAIL again.

In his latest post on The Stupak Abortion conundrom

Cost, master of politics, states this Gem:

Senate Democrats are bound to reject the Stupak language, just like they did in December. Specifically, somebody like Barbara Boxer will raise a Point of Order against the Stupak language to get it stricken from the reconciliation bill. The parliamentarian will presumably advise that the objection is valid - and 60 votes will be required to overturn the ruling to strike it. A majority of Senators will probably vote to overturn it - just as a majority voted for Stupak language in December - but it will fall short of the needed 60 vote supermajority. (Side prediction: the liberals who have been huffing and puffing about the supermajority requirements in the Senate will not be terribly upset by this.)

FAIL Cost FAIL. The Senate rejected the the Stupak amendment by Majority vote, not the other way round. The vote was to table the amendment, not support it and passed 54-45. In other words 54 Senators voted against Stupak, only 45 voted in Favor. Specifically 2 Republicans joined the majority of democrats in opposing it, so it's not just Boxer he has to worry about.

His site dosn't allow comments, but if someone wants to drop him a line and correct him please do so.

by vecky 2010-03-11 03:59PM | 0 recs
Perpetual shock . . .

I'm in perpetual shock at the absurdity displayed by political "experts".

The first thing, the most basic thing we have to understand about modern politics in this country is that Republicans and Democrats are playing two very, very different games. And, frankly, the process is skewed to help Republicans.

Democrats are put into office to DO STUFF. Nobody votes a dem in office to maintain the status quo, they put them there because they want something done. Whether it is to fix the economy, expand civil liberties, or fix health care, people want SOMETHING changed.

Republicans, on the other hand, are put in office to do nothing. Sure, they pay a lot of lip-service to "protecting" this or that, but fundamentally, republicans will change nothing, fix nothing, correct nothing. Their goal, after all, is to cede all government responsibility to the private sector, so doing nothing is practically their mission statement. (Pre-neocon, Republicans could be counted on to do nothing internationally, as well. They wanted a giant military, and to never, ever use it. Remember, it was dems who got us into WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam.)

So that's the paradigm that we have. And our system of government, with the vast number of veto points, is skewed depiberately to make it very, very hard to do stuff.

Add this to the fact that failure of government plays directly into the Republican credo that government can't do anything right, so it's better to leave it all up to the private sector. So, if Republicans fail, it's just government being government. They are held to no standard in this regard. Either you like it, or you think they are wrong, and you vote Democrat.

So, all the onus is on Democrats. We are the ones who say that government can be a positive force. We are the ones who belive that government can and should step in and solve problems, and is capable of doing it well. This is something that needs to be proven time and time again, whenever the press trots out the "Is Government Broken?" pieces.

In government, DOING STUFF is hard. That's because there are honest differences of opinion on how much stuff should be done, where it should be done, and by who. There are local concerns where DOING STUFF might hurt your state, or the stuff that other Democrats want to do isn't the same stuff that you want to do. There's a lot of talk about all of this, and threats, and all sorts of nonsense that most people only hear as general noise and disagreement.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are nice and organized. Because when you want to do nothing, it's pretty simple. There are no disagreements on how much nothing to do. And whatever dems are trying to do, Republicans can always, ALWAYS say they're trying to do too much.

This is where the press just completely loses the game, because they seem to believe that there's some level of something that Republicans will agree with. But you can't split the difference between something and nothing. Less of something is still something, which is too much for today's Republicans.

So, if Dems are put into office and they do nothing, they may as well be Republicans. (Imagine we had the President and Senate we had three years ago, what kind of Health Care bill would we have? Answer: the same one we have today, none. Hopefully, that'll change in the next few weeks.) So the only hope for Democrats, when they get into office, is to damn the torpedoes and go for it. Pass everything they promised, as quickly as they can. Forget about process stories (nobody's ever voted because of reconcilliation, or the fillibuster, or because congress passed a good bill too quickly) and just go, go, go. It's the only way to convince the American people that GOVERNMENT isn't broken, it's the Republican party that's breaking government. That if you put enough dems into office, stuff will get done.

The Health Care battle has been a long, hard slog, and hopefully it will turn out okay in the next couple of weeks. (Still a damn good bill. Not perfect, but a starter-house.). That will show America that stuff CAN get done. If the economy turns around this year (a definite possibility), then it'll show that we HAVE done stuff.

And that's the ONLY way Dems will win elections.



by EvilAsh 2010-03-16 08:33PM | 0 recs


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