Thursday, January 29, 2009

Zero

As has been widely reported, Obama's economic stimulus plan passed the House yesterday with zero Republicans voting aye, despite his frequent diplomatic and substantive overtures to them. One way of interpreting this is that Republicans are mean people who just want Obama to fail. Whether that's true or not is besides the point. As Nate Silver wrote, it is in Republicans' own career interests to oppose this plan.

The logic is simple. Obama's plan will pass with or without Republican support. If, a year or so from now, the plan is widely considered a success, Obama and the Democrats will get the credit for it. Having backed it won't do any given Republican much good. On the other hand, if it's widely considered a failure, a Republican who opposed it will at least get some bragging rights, and can say, "If the president had listened to me, we wouldn't be in this fix."

The question, of course, is why didn't Obama see this coming? Why did he and congressional Democratic leaders take some preferred Democratic programs (including family planning funding) out of the bill and add in some tax cuts to appeal to Republicans who weren't going to vote for it anyway? Maybe he was näive in his assumptions about the power of bipartisan pleas. Or maybe he was shooting for coverage like this:
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama's frequent pleas for bipartisan support.
Rejecting bipartisanship plays pretty poorly among the Beltway media folks. Regardless, Obama might consider Matt Yglesias' advice:
He needs to spend less time seeking political cover to mitigate the downside to possible policy failure, and more time trying to implement the best policies he can.

5 comments:

Lidzville said...

To me, this vote feels like a dangerous for the Republicans. Like the Iraq vote for Dems. If the polls are right, the public is willing to be patient with the bailout process, and understands the problems are big and hard to solve. That would seem to allow the Dems some wiggle room. At least right now, it feels like the Dems can convince people that this is a good-faith effort that might very well fail. Meanwhile, the Republicans come off as obstructionists, not principled opponents, to my reading.

Seth said...

Interesting that you liken it to the Iraq War vote for Dems. Wasn't obstructionism actually the smart move politically? It seems like Democrats who had supported the war (Kerry, HRC, Gephardt, etc.) didn't benefit much from that vote while the war was popular. Those who opposed it (Obama, Dean, etc.) looked a lot better in 2006 and 08 when the public soured on the war.

Lidzville said...

Huh, yeah, true, dumb comparison.

Lidzville said...

Wait, no, hold on a minute: it's the principled aspect. Barbara Lee came off as sticking to her ideas, not being an obstructionist. The Republicans aren't coming off as a principled minority. No one's buying that this is a "defending republican ideas" vote. It's just fucking with Obama. Maybe it's just down to PR/tone for me.

Seth said...

I'm guessing folks in Barbara Lee's district saw her as sticking to her ideas. Folks elsewhere probably perceived her as obstinate or obstructionist. Similarly, a Republican in Boehner's district is probably proud of him for doing the principled thing.