Friday, 12 December 2008

Corollary of the day

King Politics thinks the GOP anti-bailout faction has the politics of the day wrong:

The time for pragmatism is now, but Senate Republicans don’t recognize that.

Senate Republicans have yet to realize that the GOP lost so many seats in 2006 and 2008 because the American public has a greater desire for pragmatism than ideology.

I think that’s true to a point—but I suspect it has more to do with post-Katrina George W. Bush than any coherent definition of ideology. As much as the Democrats would like to pretend otherwise, ideological is not a term I’d readily apply to the bumbling nature of Bush’s second term. Nor am I really convinced that the average voter is doing much more than engaging in post-hoc rationalized-as-something-else economic voting, which doubtless makes me no fun at parties when I play a public opinion scholar. (“Yes, all this crap matters at the margins, and occasionally elections are won at the margins, but most of the time it doesn’t matter.”) But I digress.

There is a broader lesson, though, in that to the extent the Democrats believe that their recent success is due to their ideology it is at their long-term peril, particularly if they bypass pragmatism in favor of catering to the cobbled-together collection of rent-seekers that passes for the Democratic coalition. To the extent bailing out Detroit is seen as a Democatic handout to its paymasters—particularly with the emerging frame of “the greedy unions are standing in the way” trumping any sort of concept that any deal that tells the UAW to can their contract is essentially an impairment of the obligation of contract (which, believe it or not, is unconstitutional)—the auto bailout won’t go over well in the 48 or so states that don’t host significant Big Three production.

On a related note, Steven Taylor notes the defining-down of the filibuster by the media to mean “failure to win a cloture vote.” While I accept the point graciously, I think this may be more a failure of us as a profession than the media per se; modern congressional procedures (not just filibusters and “holds,” but also esoterica such as the Rules Committee and UCAs), even superficially treated, aren’t a strong point of most American government textbooks, and more often than not that’s the only real government orientation budding journalists will get. I make a point of assigning Barbara Sinclair’s Unorthodox Lawmaking in my Congress classes, but I doubt the average journalist gets that in-depth in their undergrad days. So here at least I think the blame falls somewhat closer to home than we might want to admit.