Sunday, May 14, 2006

Losing by Winning?

I have a quote in today's NYT regarding the pitfalls of victory, should the Democrats take back control of Congress this fall.

I'm sure that the Bush people will try to put some conservative bills before them to make Democrats shoot them down," said Philip A. Klinkner, a professor of government at Hamilton College. President Bush would "start using his veto pen and cutting spending bills — he'd try to show Democrats are for raising taxes and spending."


The obvious example of this is 1994, when the Republican won both the House and the Senate and set out to implement their "Republican Revolution." In doing so, the allowed President Clinton to "triangulate" his way to reelection in 1996. An earlier example is 1946, when the Republicans came back to power after 16 years in the congressional wilderness. Nonetheless, they succeeded mostly in saddling the eventual nominee, Thomas Dewey, with a unpopular conservative record and allowing Harry Truman to run against the "Do Nothing" 80th Congress.

Nonetheless, I don't think you can win by losing. If you want to convince the American people that you can govern effectively, the first thing you need to do is govern.

1 comment:

Chris D. said...

"If you want to convince the American people that you can govern effectively, the first thing you need to do is govern."

Well said. What makes this an interesting prospect is that the next Democratic Congress could very well be the first progressive majority since LBJ's good years. No old school Southern Democrats in the chairmen's seats. If we play our cards right, it could be sustainable--not one of those deals where you need to have a popular President to keep a third of the caucus from bolting at every chill breeze. I think 95% of the Democrats elected to the House and Senate today are truly progressive at heart--even if some of them have to vote CYA right now. The key to our success will be in how we structure our policy offerings to forge a center-left/liberal alliance rather than trying to appease the old center-right vs. moderate/liberal tension, which could never hold under pressure (e.g., 1992-94).