Thursday, February 26, 2009

The GOP's Uncertain Return

Politico's got a good piece explaining the GOP's risky strategy of obstructing everything, but which makes the same analysis error I've been seeing for weeks.
And the cracks in the facade appear to be the first public signal of Republican rank-and-file squeamishness with a remarkably high-risk strategy that promises an uncertain return.  For Republicans, a central question looms: Is saying no to Obama’s agenda the way to get voters to say yes to an already beleaguered GOP brand?

If Republicans are right, the economy will remain in tatters and voters will recognize in 2010 that the recovery was delayed by profligate Democrats and their president.  If the GOP is wrong, however, and the economy begins to show signs of life, the resistance will be easily framed as excessive obstructionism, the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party.
And of course, the reason why this can be easily framed that way is because this IS the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party.  They've got nothing and have been essentially coasting on fumes for the past fifteen years.  9/11 gave them a temporary respite, but they managed it poorly and now lack foreign policy credibility.  The last good idea they had was invading Iraq and the wisdom of that decision is in obvious doubt.

And the reality is that they were always intellectually bankrupt.  The "Party of Ideas" thing was just a marketing slogan; not an accurate description.  And underneath it all, sloganeering and fear-mongering is about all they've had since liberalism established a beachhead with FDR.

A Lose-Lose for Republicans

But the big mistake Politico is making is the upside prediction to all this.  For as much as folks keep insisting that Republicans are betting against the economy improving, and I DO believe this is their thinking too, this makes no sense.  Because this just isn't how things will play out.  

If the economy doesn't improve, Democrats will just say that the stimulus wasn't enough and that at least they prevented things from getting worse.  And if it DOES improve, Republicans will say that it was going to improve anyway, in spite of the stimulus.  And we know this to be the case, because this is exactly how things worked for Bush's tax cuts.  This is also what happened during the Clinton years, when Republicans had to insist that the economy was booming in spite of Clinton's tax increase.  What else was either side going to say?  Admitting defeat on this issue is simply not an option.

And the only way of deciding which side is correct is to weigh the merits of each system.  And that's the problem that Republicans are already in: Common sense says that when we're in a recession and people are losing their jobs, we should borrow money to pump into the economy.  It's what every individual, business, and government understands intuitively; assuming they don't suffer from ideological biases against such strategies.  

So as far as the majority of Americans is concerned, this debate is already over.  They don't need to wait two or four years for the results.  They know that the government can bail them out and they're just waiting for it to happen.  And even if the economy doesn't improve, they'll still know the theory was good, but that it just wasn't implemented properly.  And seeing as how the Republicans are completely rejecting the theory, even failure doesn't work to their advantage.

The Impossible Strategy

And so Republicans are essentially betting everything on a counter-intuitive argument that has already been rejected.  Even worse, this isn't a 50/50 shot at seeing the economy improve; they're relying on an almost impossible triple-bank shot.  They not only have to pray that the experts are wrong and the stimulus won't work, but also that it won't get better on its own.  And even if the economy doesn't improve, they have to hope that Americans are idiots who would blame Obama's common sense plan that they all supported.  All of this must happen, or the Republicans lose...bigtime.

And the only way for this to work is if they can successfully follow Bill Kristol's idiotic advice and actually obstruct Obama.  It's not enough to slow him down if the bill's eventually get passed.  That only makes the Republicans look worse in every way.  And even if they ARE successful in stopping Obama and stifling Obama, there's still the big risk that they'll get the blame for screwing with the economy.

As I've argued before, Republicans understood perfectly well that blaming Democrats for obstructionism was a good idea; and now they imagine this is a winning hand for them?  They're banking everything on this??   That's idiotic.

Aiding Obama

And the stupidest part of this is that, for as much as many analysts are gaming this with the same mistaken assumptions the GOP does, this ISN'T why the GOP made this blunder.  It was entirely predictable that the GOP would oppose Obama no matter what he did.  It would have made much more sense if they had grudgingly agreed to trust Obama.  That way, they could say he betrayed their trust if things failed or take the credit if things succeeded.  They'd be in the same boat as before, except they'd have more credibility.

But these dopes didn't have the brains to pull off such political maneuvering, and so Obama gets to do the right thing while using Republicans as foils.  Had they selected a nice Obama-lite policy using Clinton's old triangulation strategy, they would have been able to pull support from Obama with good effect.  But their taxcut-only plan and firm stance against spending only made Obama's job easier.  Even Karl Rove wants to believe that Obama was attacking a strawman when Obama stated the Republican position, but fortunately for us, they put themselves in the strawman suit and want Obama to knock the hell out of them.

These guys are as predictable as the sunrise and Obama appears to be using that to great effect.  Not that he has to do anything, beyond stay on message and allow them to speak.  Of course, he can't stop them from speaking, so they really have no one to blame but themselves.

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