Political Posturing And Liberal Discontent

Posted by | August 24, 2010 13:15 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Peter Daou has an appealing rationale for the problems with the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress.

There is a simple formula for rightwing dominance of our national debate, even when Democrats are in charge: move the conversation as extreme right as possible, then compromise toward the far right. It’s negotiation 101. And it’s completely lost on Democrats.

It is appealing because it allows progressives to say and think that if only Obama and Pelosi and Reid took more liberal positions, then the policy outcomes would be further to the left.

Just because it is appealing, however, does not mean it is correct.  Republicans can afford to take extreme positions because they are in the minority and most of the seats they hold are in districts where these extreme positions are acceptable.  Also they will not be held responsible if the economy tanks or Afghanistan goes badly.  Republicans take these positions not for bargaining purposes but because it suits their current political purposes.

If the Republicans were to take the majority, then they would start picking up seats that they won’t be able to hold if they have extreme right-wing positions.  While the right wing of their caucus will continue to utter ridiculous statements, the leadership will become focused on preserving the majority and hence will sound more moderate.  Remember that when Republicans were in the majority, prescription drug reform and No Child Left Behind passed (hardly liberal statutes but both were expansions of government power).  When they started getting overconfident and more radical and talking about privatizing Social Security, they lost.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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