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September 04, 2012 10:04 AM ‘64 or Bust

By Ed Kilgore

In a Bloomberg column, Ramesh Ponnuru makes an argument for Mitt Romney’s election that you are going to hear a lot more of soon: it’s the only way that partisan gridlock in Washington can be broken. The basic theory is that Republicans will not change from their current savage ideological course (which will actually get more savage if they lose this election they think themselves destined to win) and are very unlikely to lose enough congressional support to reduce their veto power over legislation. So if you want something new to happen, a President Romney and a Republican-controlled House and Senate (presumably using reconciliation to do whatever they want without Democratic support) are the only ticket.

Here’s Ponnuru’s response to those (including the President) who have suggested an Obama victory will humble Republicans:

Republicans famously failed to react to their drubbing in 2008 — after which, let’s recall, Time magazine was running cover stories on their impending extinction — by softening their line on anything. Why would they react that way after an election that goes better for them? Especially when they will be looking forward to the gains that the party out of the White House typically makes in midterm elections.

Not to mention the nomination of a real conservative, not some flip-flopping wimp like Romney, in 2016, eh?

So as a cap to four years of political hostage-taking, a final general election pitch from Republicans this year is to hold the next four years hostage as well: give us total power to begin implementing our agenda and start dismantling this silly, expensive New Deal/Great Society system and this European-style progressive tax code, or nothing at all happens. We’ll get our way eventually, so why not get started now?

This will be a seductive argument for certain elements of the “centrist” MSM commentariat. There’s a big piece up at Politico this very morning about how disillusioned political reporters are about the viciousness and pointlessness of this election cycle. When will the gridlock end, they implicitly ask, and the wondrous Washington romance of movers and shakers moving and shaking return? Before long, we’ll hear ostensibly “neutral” voices making the case for one-party government—Republican one-party government, as it happens—as an oasis of clarity and productive activity after all the nasty divisiveness we’ve experienced. For the history-minded, it may even start sounding a bit like the famous fatigue of the European elites about the weakness and pettiness of parliamentary democracy during the 1920s.

For the record, there’s at least one area of highly significant, powerful activity that will occur automatically if Barack Obama is re-elected, even if Republicans make congressional gains and convince themselves to go even crazier: the Affordable Care Act will be implemented, and 30 million or so Americans without health insurance will be covered, making the big step back towards “individual responsibility” for health care conservatives crave that much less likely. If everything the Wall Street folk like to tell us is true, the resolution the election will bring will also have a beneficial effect on markets. Even if there is no perceived “mandate,” the President’s hand will be greatly strengthened in the negotiations over how to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” And whatever they say, conservatives will have to accept that the Great Counter-Revolution they saw on the near horizon after 2010, which they’ve been pursuing since 1964, has receded into the distance once again.

But while that may be the reality, beware the hand-wringing talk down the home stretch of the Awful Specter of Still More Gridlock if Obama wins. It’s not really true, and in any event, there are worse things than gridlock so long as one of the two major parties will accept nothing short of total power.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • delNorte on September 04, 2012 10:16 AM:

    So, Republicans have taken Washington hostage, and are demanding ransom? That's their new political strategy?

    The other solution to this problem is to send as many Republicans as possible packing come November. Maybe then they will get the message.

    (Don't forget also, that, even if gridlock continues during a second term for Obama, he still gets to appoint judges to the Supreme court.)

  • Ron Byers on September 04, 2012 10:20 AM:

    I have had the same thought, but I make it a policy not to surrender to terrorists. I would rather have gridlock with Obama than action with Romney.

  • c u n d gulag on September 04, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Yes, since everyone's arguing, Meats v. Veggies & Grains & Fruits, and no one can decide on what to eat, let's let the Cannibals make the decisions!!!

    I actually wouldn't mind it so much, if I saw Mark Halperin and Chuck Todd boiling away in the pots next to mine.

    But THAT ain't gonna happen!

  • SadOldVet on September 04, 2012 10:26 AM:

    In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I made the mistake of thinking (for a couple of weeks) that it was probably a good thing to have a republican president because there was no doubt that a President Gore would have been savaged by the republicans and their corporately owned media stooges.

    Let's not try that again...

    If you do not like war, the best chance to avoid ones with Syria & Iran are with Obama.

  • jjm on September 04, 2012 10:30 AM:

    So they saying, 'give in to the terrorists'?

    I think Obama is right. All of this nastiness was designed to cripple him legislatively and throw his agenda off course--and to prevent a second term. Why? Because he is actually take a big U-turn from Reaganism and its aftermath, and the GOP is losing both its brief, and its constituency.

    As Lindsay Graham put it, "There aren't enough angry old white men anymore."

  • Bob on September 04, 2012 10:31 AM:

    Shorter Ponnuru: "Surrender, Dorothy."

  • RepublicanPointOfView on September 04, 2012 10:33 AM:

    And whatever they say, conservatives will have to accept that the Great Counter-Revolution they saw on the near horizon after 2010, which they’ve been pursuing since 1964, has receded into the distance once again.

    Bullsh!t Ed...

    Republicans NEVER have to accept reality. Our bases will KNOW that any loss will be because of the nomination of a non-believing, moderate, muddle of the road, wimp from Massachusetts who was afraid to vet Obama.

    Jeb Bush in 2016!

  • Diane Rodriguez on September 04, 2012 10:34 AM:

    “ There’s a big piece up at Politico this very morning about how disillusioned political reporters are about the viciousness and pointlessness of this election cycle. “


    Excuse me while I close my mouth. Spinning up the vicious and pointless is what gets most of these morons up in the morning. It take a set of brass ones to suddenly express outrage about a situation in which your actions were a major factor in the outcome. Lord have mercy.

  • stormskies on September 04, 2012 10:37 AM:

    The vast amount of the corporate media is simply a 'clear and present danger' to what is left of our country. Most of them are, to me, white collar criminals on par with a kind of 'mafia' which is why they are called 'the villagers'.

    They literally create story lines and narratives that have no basis in reality. This is the vehicle for the propaganda they generate as dictated by the corporations, like General Electric, that hire them.

    So we end up with creeps like Chuck "I know who pays me" Todd creating narratives that say if the election is just about the economy then Romney/Ryan wins, and if it is about 'emotion' then Obama wins.

    This kind of sniveling crap, propaganda, is what creeps like Todd are hired to generate. Clear and present danger indeed.

  • jim filyaw on September 04, 2012 10:43 AM:

    the first thing every despot from lenin down through pol pot did after usurping a more or less representative form of government was to dispense with "petty partisanship". ponnuru's argument is so blatantly foolish, its hard to get a grip on where to rebut it. he is either a shill or a damned fool. there's no third possibility.

  • Jay Gold on September 04, 2012 10:43 AM:

    People forget, but this is precisely the reasoning Richard Cohen and others used in 2000 in recommending a vote for GWB - the GOP hostility toward Gore and Clinton was so strong that only Bush could heal the country. That worked out well.

  • Mimikatz on September 04, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I have 3 words for the Ponnuru and Politico crowd: George Walker Bush. And Dick Cheney. Having one-party government meant 2 wars and a tripling of the deficit. It isn't just the dismantling of the NewDeal, it is more deregulation and tax cuts and funneling more of our national wealth to the top .1% while we go to war with Iran.

    A person who would rather pay taxes to a foreign gov't than pay a fair share to support this country would be a disaster as President even without his retinue of clowns and crazies and hostage takers.

  • bluewave on September 04, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Yeah, but if Howard Dean was still in charge at the DNC, we might stand a chance of breaking the partisan gridlock by kicking enough Republicans out to actually get something done. I really have never understood why Obama hasn't spent a lot more time running against the Republicans in Congress. There are ways to do it without looking whiny and weak. The only answer I've been able to come up with is that he's just as much all about himself as the Clintons, he just approaches it more from the grassroots (millions of little supporters rather than a few large corporate ones) than they did. So thanks Rahm Emanuel and Tim Kaine. Great job for your party.

  • @TeaPartyCat on September 04, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Ed,
    Good points. I'd like it if you'd also discuss the people who suggested a few months back that if Romney won, then maybe we'd get some stimulus because when the GOP has to govern, they'd recognize the need for it. While that sounds nice, I think the way things are with Romney, and with Ryan as VP, that there would be no stimulus. They'll repeal Obamneycare on Day One and start implementing the Ryan budget. They'll call those things helps to the jobs market (which they're not), and will feel no need to do anything to really help, right?

    @TeaPartyCat

  • Steve LaBonne on September 04, 2012 10:57 AM:

    This is what Republicans mean by "Country over Party", amirite? What a bunch of selfless patriots.

  • T2 on September 04, 2012 10:59 AM:

    If Obama wins we'll probably see four more years of the same from the Republicans in Congress. But we might not see more of the same from Obama as he won't have re-election to worry about. A little more willingness to play "my way or the highway" with the GOP - non of that "bipartisan" crap he fruitlessly tried his first two years.
    If Romney wins, we'll see a re-run of the eight W. Bush years, ending in a Depression - which appears to be the real goal of the Conservatives.

  • Michael Robinson on September 04, 2012 11:00 AM:

    "Vote for us, or nothing gets done."

    Oh, pretty please with sugar on it, let that be their message going into the election.

    Let them run on obstructionism.

    Let every voter know that that's their plan.

    Because two words: "fiscal cliff"

    Let them own it.

    http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/media/cat%20fud_66.JPG

  • James M on September 04, 2012 11:10 AM:

    @Ron Byers on September 04, 2012 10:20 AM:

    "I have had the same thought, but I make it a policy not to surrender to terrorists. I would rather have gridlock with Obama than action with Romney."

    Exactly! Wimp that I am, being a fan of murder mysteries and private eye films and novels, I would NEVER give in to blackmail because the final consequences are always worse. Our system can not work if 1 party declares itself bomb throwers who will threaten to destroy the system any time they lose.

    As seductive as the,'Just let a Republican win and everything will calm down' argument may sometimes seem,how confident would you feel giving the keys to the White House to a guy who straps his dog to the roof of his car for a family trip to Canada and another who inflates his marathon time by an entire hour? We have no reason to assume that the Romney/Ryan is just playing nice to win but would do the right thing once elected.

    My version of the 'tough love' shock treatment approach sometimes argued here is to re-elect BO and then let the crazy GOPers pull 'Debt Limit II' or something equally crazy stunt. True, we will all suffer mightily as a result but it will likely destroy the modern GOP.

    If so, that would be a price worth paying in my book.

  • James M on September 04, 2012 11:16 AM:

    No more commenting just before bed!LOL.

    I meant to type:

    We have no reason to assume that the Romney/Ryan is just playing rough to win but would do the right thing once elected.

  • paul on September 04, 2012 11:29 AM:

    When the strongest argument for one party is that they're a bunch of traitors who would rather see their country destroyed than make common cause with the other party, that's kinda saying something about all their other arguments.

  • exlibra on September 04, 2012 11:35 AM:

    [...] another who inflates his marathon time by an entire hour [...] -- James M, @11:10

    That ("inflates by one hour" works only for people who know how many hours a marathon usually takes; for me, it's "4hrs, 3hrs, what's the diff?".

    OTOH, tell me he's puffed up his time by 25%, and I'll sit up an notice, esp in view of the fact that this is a guy whose budget plan is likely to be used as a blueprint for Romney's fiscal policies. If someone who's supposed to taken seriously can make a mistake of 25% in one place, how am I to trust him not to have made the same kind of "error" in money matters? Suppose he says "we won't take a penny from the current seniors", does it mean "we'll cut current seniors' benefits by 25%"?

  • R on September 04, 2012 11:41 AM:

    This is the same guy who thinks there's no such thing as gender discrimination in the workplace:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-13/don-t-blame-discrimination-for-gender-wage-gap.html

    As others have noted, gridlock would be far preferable to having Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, and the catholic bishops in charge.

  • Alan in SF on September 04, 2012 11:49 AM:

    On the other hand, if Obama follows past form, he'll decide not to run for re-election since it's not absolutely guaranteed that he'll win.

  • Cathymac on September 04, 2012 11:51 AM:

    I suggest that if the Republicans succeed in stealing another election through voter suppression and Supreme Court corruption, they're going to see some gridlock of their own. What goes around can and should come around.

  • boatboy_srq on September 04, 2012 12:16 PM:

    @Ron Byers:

    I would rather have gridlock with Obama than action with Romney.

    THIS. ABSOLUTELY.

    To Democrats, there's their party, and there's the opposition. To Republicans, there are Patriots™ (them) and there are Traitors™ (all the rest of us).

  • Bobby Goren on September 04, 2012 12:32 PM:

    Hey Ponnuru! I've go another idea - return control of the House to the Democrats as well as a 60+ majority in the Senate. That's all that is needed to get our economy back on track.

    On the other hand ...

    If you believe that the key to balancing the budget is to close loopholes, then why not elect Romney - the greatest tax cheat ever to run for office. After all, "IT TAKES A THIEF."

  • Crissa on September 04, 2012 1:37 PM:

    It's interesting that Ed and Kevin Drum had the same thought on this subject.

  • TCinLA on September 04, 2012 2:16 PM:

    how disillusioned political reporters are about the viciousness and pointlessness of this election cycle

    Ah, poor babies! These otherwise-unemployable SCUM wouldn't amount to a pimple on the ass of any real reporter. I've always been a believer in a free press, but right now I think if a few of these worthless horses' asses were found hanging from lamp posts, it might encourage the rest of them to GET TO WORK.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 04, 2012 2:21 PM:

    I like the metaphor that Baker, Krugman, and Benen are discussing lately. According to Ponnuru, the firefighters and the blaze have battled to a standoff, and the fire has refused to abate. That's not very exciting, so to see real progress we need to dismiss the firefighters and bring on the kerosene. Just imagine the excitement that could result!

  • majun on September 04, 2012 3:03 PM:

    If I thought for one minute that allowing Republicans full control to implement their destructive agenda and take this country down to its knees in a manner not last seen since 1932 would result in their suddenly finding truth and going OMG!!!!!! WE WERE WRONG!!!!, I would consider it a decent price to pay for the end of the obstructionist gridlock that they have brought to the public square. But that ain't gonna happen. The country will go down the tubes and they will find some reason why they weren't CONSERVATIVE enough. "Never could trust Mitt anyhow, we kept saying he was a RINO and look, even the Democrats were complaining that Ryan wasn't really a deficit hawk and just wanted to shower riches on his corporate masters." That's the way it will play out and the wackadoodle wing of the party will complain that we are not giving them a proper chance to prove their theories. They are impervious to empiricism. And even if you could get them to admit that the country was better off under Obama, they would complain that helping the "undeserving poor" (i.e. minorities) is immoral and shouldn't be done. I'm hoping that this election will end like 1972 and the wackadoodle faction of the GOP will disappear like the real leftist faction of the Democratic Party disappeared 40 years ago. Commentators today regularly refer to Obama and Clinton as center left politicians, but before 1972, they would have been considered center right. Time to shift the balance back.

  • majun on September 04, 2012 3:04 PM:

    If I thought for one minute that allowing Republicans full control to implement their destructive agenda and take this country down to its knees in a manner not last seen since 1932 would result in their suddenly finding truth and going OMG!!!!!! WE WERE WRONG!!!!, I would consider it a decent price to pay for the end of the obstructionist gridlock that they have brought to the public square. But that ain't gonna happen. The country will go down the tubes and they will find some reason why they weren't CONSERVATIVE enough. "Never could trust Mitt anyhow, we kept saying he was a RINO and look, even the Democrats were complaining that Ryan wasn't really a deficit hawk and just wanted to shower riches on his corporate masters." That's the way it will play out and the wackadoodle wing of the party will complain that we are not giving them a proper chance to prove their theories. They are impervious to empiricism. And even if you could get them to admit that the country was better off under Obama, they would complain that helping the "undeserving poor" (i.e. minorities) is immoral and shouldn't be done. I'm hoping that this election will end like 1972 and the wackadoodle faction of the GOP will disappear like the real leftist faction of the Democratic Party disappeared 40 years ago. Commentators today regularly refer to Obama and Clinton as center left politicians, but before 1972, they would have been considered center right. Time to shift the balance back.

  • MuddyLee on September 04, 2012 5:29 PM:

    Do not surrender to repub threats. The repubs in Congress have basically tried to un-do the election of 2008 - which nullifies the votes of Americans who voted for Obama. It's outrageous. Elect Obama - elect more Democrats - make the repubs actually participate in the government. And please, tax audits for Romney, Rove, Norquist, McConnell, Cantor, Ryan and for all their super-PAC type operations. Then, reform the tax code to repeal all charitable deductions - that would make it harder for the rich to rig the system by contributing to rightwing foundations and rightwing churches. Of course it would hurt legitimate charities too - but it's worth the tradeoff.

  • Nathanael on September 04, 2012 6:41 PM:

    The solution is to "not negotiate with hostage-takers". If the Republicans are terrorists, as Ramesh Ponnuru believes, send in Seal Team 6, and our problems should be solved.

    It is embarassing to see people making this bogus "surrender to terrorism and hostage-taking" argument.

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  • Brenna on September 04, 2012 7:00 PM:

    IF the crazies get elected, on the plus side, the republican party will for sure become extinct. Sure, the repercussions to Americans will be dire, but after 4 years (maybe 2) they'll be run out of town with pitchforks.

  • ny nick on September 04, 2012 7:16 PM:

    Historically, the beltway press corp has been able to influence how voters perceive the candidates and the two parties. That influence is waning as people get their news from their tablets and smartphones, they're able to hear from voices that were not audible in the past.

    What's different about this election is the usual rush to attract independents and disaffected Dems isn't taking place. Republicans are in effect, preaching to the choir. They are not even trying to bring in voters outside of their base. Either they know something we don't, or they lose fairly handily. They have offered nothing outside of their constant demand for low taxes on rich people. Most voters understand that this experiment has been ongoing for the last two decades and the results have not been very good. Voters are unlikely to think that doubling down on still lower taxes for the rich (and an actual tax increase for themselves) will suddenly create a utopia.

  • Avedon on September 05, 2012 11:41 AM:

    We already have one-party GOP government, and have had for some time. It's disguised by the fact that its present leader ran and won as a Democrat, but that party's leadership has nothing but Republican policies of the worst kind.

    I keep being told, for example, that the PPACA (Obamacare, formerly known as Romneycare, formerly just a plot hatched by the Heritage Foundation to head off any better proposals and serve as an insurance industry bailout) is "Obama's signature achievement".

    And lately I see "progressives" absolutely bragging about the fact that Obama has been a great pinch-penny, cutting (vital) spending better than anyone!

    And Obama never misses a chance to turn any debate into an opportunity to offer to cut Social Security and Medicare. Fortunately, the Republicans' refusal to vote for their own policies has been saving us so far, but what will happen if we have a House and Senate full of "centrist" Democrats eager to demonstrate their party unity by voting for the worst of all possible right-wing proposals?

    Gridlock has been a blessing thus far. Our best hope is that it continues until we can get rid of these right-wing Democrats and replace them with people who actually care about our country.

  • gdb on September 05, 2012 2:39 PM:

    Avedon is right. With BHO as Preez, all progressives have done is slow the rightward drift that he and Blue Dog Dems constantly enable. Nothing will really change until BOTH parties suffer a massive political defeat. That will not happen to the Repubs in 2012. on the other hand, a BHO loss in 2012 will lead to Dem's re-organizing--almost certainly as an opposition Progressive party rather than Repub light.