Originally Posted by BRussell
In the Obama era, Ds and Rs are following clear strategies that are clashing and creating the political situation that exists right now.
The Obama strategy is Moderation
: On the major issues, find the position that has been endorsed by bipartisan groups and moderate Republicans, and make it the Obama plan.
The Republican strategy is Obstruction
: Deny Obama any chance of enacting bipartisan policies by uniting Rs against what they otherwise would have supported.
On health reform
, an individual mandate with subsidies was the moderate Republican alternative
to the Clinton health care plan in the 1990s. It was the bipartisan plan
endorsed by Bob Dole shortly after Obama took office. And it was the plan
that 2008 Republican presidential runner-up Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts in 2006.
On the environment
, cap and trade started as the Republican market-based plan for the environment, first implemented
by the Bush I administration to deal with acid rain. Just a few months ago, cap and trade was the bipartisan plan
for the environment.
, Obama has proposed
the plan endorsed by the previous Republican president and the previous Republican presidential candidate, GW Bush and McCain.
In all of these cases and others, Obama adopted the moderate Republican and bipartisan plan, and Republicans decided to oppose it lest Obama be seen as bipartisan and therefore successful.
Either of these strategies alone would lead to equilibrium, but the two strategies together creates a clash. Policies that were in the center of American politics become, to Republicans, Nazi Stalinist Dr. Evil policies. This leads to a change in the center of gravity of American politics.
There are two consequences of this change in the center of political gravity. First, Obama is perceived as a partisan president despite supporting moderate policies. Polls show Obama losing any support he ever had from Republicans and conservative-leaning independents. This shows the Republican strategy working. But at the same time, Republicans are staking out more and more extreme positions, which cannot be good for Republicans in the long run.
You raise some interesting points BRussell and I'd say that with regard to campaigns versus governing you are 100% dead on.
The difference comes in governing. Both moderate Republicans and Democrats know they can often tell constituents that they hold a position because often the fabled legislation that would test such a vote fails to come up or if it does it does so in such a slight manner that they can get over the hump and hold their moderate position. The real problem occurs when they are forced to take votes that expose these moderate positions for either lies or a harder partisan edge depending upon your viewpoint.
A good example of this was the health care debate and say... pro-life Democrats. Many of these Democrats had to tow the party line toward the end in order to get it passed and had to give up their "moderate" for the Democratic party position of pro-life for those votes. When they go back to voters in their districts or states, their credentials in those areas will have been compromised. In addition often "real" candidates with that position be it within the party or from the opposition party will rise up to challenge and raise funds based off those votes and the compromised position. This means that when a party is in power, their moderate wing is the part that often loses them their electoral advantage because they are forced off the moderate edge and into the partisan votes where they claim to be independent and "mavericky" from the party.
The Republican positions did change a bit as you note. However they had to due to the fact that it could be argued that the lost with all those moderate positions, not just a little but full control and likewise the campaign that Obama ran essentially beat up on them for being bad Republicans and that is a moderate Democrat he would help Republicans fix Republican excesses by out Republicaning Republicans in specific areas.
Obama ran against Neo-Con principles of being the cop of the world and claimed he would dramatically reduce our role there. This sounded very good to Paleo-cons like myself. He ran on a tax cut and limited taxes while claiming he would reduce earmarks and spending to close the massive budget hole of $250 billion a year that had doubled the deficit under Bush. He ran as someone who would increase the efficiency of Medicare and use the gains from the improvements there as well as the cost from being the troops home to start adding the uninsured to health rolls through minor changes to health care legislation often related to eligibility. (Example allow 150% of poverty level to apply as opposed to 100%)
On the Republican side with the winner take almost all primaries you had McCain lock up the vote early due to Thompson, Huckabee and Romney playing merry-go-round for first place from state to state with McCain coming in second and then McCain winning in many blue states. (primaries not elections) His winning basically left Republicans unenergized and felt very much like when the goold soldier and moderate Bob Dole ran in 1996. Bob Dole, like McCain was floundering and looked for a way to energize the base. He managed to improve his chances by selecting Jack Kemp and with that came a 15% tax cut which while Dole endorsed, was a complete reversal of his previous positions and thus rang hollow. McCain likewise picked Sarah Palin which thrilled the base but often the McCain speeches on true conservative positions rang hollow and the result in both cases were losses.
Now the Republicans have decided to obstruct but the issue there is two-fold. One they don't gain anything by helping the Democrats pass plans that, once they hit Congress became decidedly unmoderate. Two as we are now seeing on the Democratic side, moderate rhetoric with partisan votes = loss of fundraising cash, primary challenges and loss of credibility with the voter. Fiscally conservative Democrats and anti-war Democrats who have voted for trillion dollar deficits and have kept funding the war have a lot to lose this cycle. So Republicans have decided to run candidates that are unabashedly conservative and vote to support interests that are unabashedly conservative.
Romney hasn't won anything. Dole couldn't cross the finish line nor could McCain. Their positions might play a bit better with the media but they didn't cross the finish line and win. So the point becomes, if you are going to be a loser are you going to advocate for 50% of what you want, or 100% of what you want. The answer becomes 100% which from the perspective of Democrats sounds partisan and obstructionist. Of course we will see what song they are singing in 2012 when people are yelling, we voted for the war and health care and lost the House or perhaps something similar.
You noted that Obama as a candidate adopted very bipartisan positions. I'd say again you are right. However he has utterly failed with regard to enacting those positions. The Democratic numbers in Congress are so large that they could even rip off the moderate wings of their own parties and that is what the votes have reflected. The legislation itself has been extreme and has blue dogs voting against it. Those same candidates are likely to lose this year even if they did vote against it because people want stronger opposition to the extreme Democratic legislation.
Obama and the Democrats did not bring the troops home. There has been NO war savings to put into health care. The additional costs are going to be paid for now by taxing "premium" health care plans or limiting what other health care plans can cover in an attempt to limit the benefit individually but cover the group.
Obama and the Democrats did not get our financial house in order. Under the last two years of Bush, the $250 billion a year deficits became $400 billion a year deficits. These were blamed on Bush when he was in office. It was declared that Bush wouldn't allow minor reform due to his presidency and the remaining Republican strength in Congress. Paying to buy two sets of votes is more expensive and we were also told most of this was due to earmarks that Bush wouldn't reform since it allowed his minority party to still benefit their interests.
Obviously we have gone from $400 billion a year to trillion dollar a year deficits. The Democrats have gone insane with their spending. There hasn't been earmark reform and instead we don't even have a budget process in place. It doesn't really matter if Republicans did it too because it is part of why they were thrown out of office. The Democrats can't be me too when their platform is we will fix what is wrong. Being wrong too gets you tossed.
So this brings us to where we are at now. Why would a Republican want to help moderate lack of earmark reform, continuing wars, no budget control, a terrible health care reform, etc? It is better instead to be the outsider because the new insiders did not fix the problems as they promised. Politicos know the full story. They might know McCain's old positions and new positions and have they have altered when running against a Hayworth. When it comes to the election though the people who aren't often engaged though are going to see this narrative. Blame and solution and who is part of the blame and who is the new solution. Republicans gain nothing by being part of this problem and gain everything by being the outsiders who can solve this problem.
Just ask Barack Obama circa 2008.