The Next Two Years

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fred Barnes of The Wall Street Journal explains why he sees a much larger lurch to the left under President Obama than there was under either Carter or Clinton. We will now get to see whether he is right:

A sharp lurch to the left and enactment of a liberal agenda, or major parts of it, are all but inevitable. The centrist limits in earlier eras of Democratic control are gone. In the short run, Democrats may be constrained by the weak economy and a large budget deficit. Tax hikes and massive spending programs, except those billed as job creation, may have to be delayed.

But much of their agenda -- the "card check" proposal to end secret ballots in union elections, the Fairness Doctrine to stifle conservative talk radio, liberal judicial nominees, trade restrictions, retreat from Iraq, talks with Iran -- doesn't require spending. And after 14 years of Republican control of Congress, the presidency, or both, Democrats are impatient. They want to move quickly.

Democrats had large majorities when Jimmy Carter became president in 1977 (61-38 in the Senate, 292-143 in the House) and when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 (56-44, 258-176). So why are their prospects for legislative success so much better now?

The most significant change is in the ideological makeup of the Democratic majorities. In the Carter and Clinton eras, there were dozens of moderate and conservative Democrats in Congress, a disproportionate number of them committee chairs. Now the Democratic majorities in both houses are composed almost uniformly of liberals. [links and bold added]
Left unaddressed is whether the public will tolerate this agenda once it has been put into place and its effects have been felt. Part of such resistance, which would manifest during the mid-term congressional elections, will inhere in how -- damnably to Obama -- selfish Americans still are. But part could have been aided by the Republicans not having behaved so much like Democrats themselves to have screwed up the economy badly as it is. What will there be to provide contrast to the results of the policies of certain failure about to be enacted by the Democrats?

The Republicans lost this election in large part because they did not stand up for the principle of individual rights, resulting in there being no substantive difference in theory or practice between themselves and the Democrats. Furthermore, since we have a good start on a Democrat economy already, stand by for the Democrats to blame anything bad on the Republicans, and for the contrast in economic conditions between now and a couple of years hence not to be as great as it ought. Conceivably, the Republicans have already lost the mid-terms.

Furthermore, as the hypocritical, less-consistent altruists in this election, they lost the moral high ground to the Democrats. Let me be the first to state that I want an alternative: Proudly selfish politicians who understand that rational self-interest is what made America great.

Republicans, there's your path to recovery.

-- CAV


: Corrected typos.


Harold said...

Hm. Isn't it possible if things continue to deteriorate, that people will just say: "Well, the Democrats inherited this free-market disaster and can't be held accountable, etc."

Gus Van Horn said...

That's what they did after Progressive Republican Herbert Hoover, and that's what they'll do now.

Ironically, it is to the degree that the GOP abandoned capitalism that we're already in trouble.

softwareNerd said...

Barnes does not provide proof that today's Democrats are more statist than the old guard. I wonder if it really true.

Dismuke said...

My guess is that is exactly what the Democrat's first priority will be: to screw up the economy even more and as quickly as possible. They know that they are inheriting a bad economy. They also know that the policies they wish to shove through will damage the economy (which, in and of itself doesn't bother them because it is VERY obvious that widespread economic prosperity is NOT something they value. Their concern about prosperity extends ONLY to the impact it will have at the ballot box.) They also know that a bad economy could be used against them during mid term elections. So my guess is they will do what they can to damage the economy NOW so that they can pin the blame on Bush and use that as a pretext for a HUGE power grab on their part. As in the 1930s, if the economy improves only very slowly, the can take the credit for that minimal improvement and still have a bad economy to justify even further statism.

We are a country that is now officially under a Stalinst government.

And it is probably a good idea that you blog under a pseudonym. Stalinists take names and have long memories and enemies lists. A recent example is Venezuela - rank and file citizens who supported the coup suddenly found that they no longer had jobs once Chavez came back to power. The only difference between these people and Chavez and the villains in We The Living is how much they will be allowed to get away with. During the past couple of years, I have lost a lot of confidence in the public's capacity and willingness to not let them get away with things.

Gus Van Horn said...


Many of the conservative Democrats either retired or switched parties after 1994. I have no problem with that part of Barnes' thesis.


I doubt that the Democrats would have much trouble finding me if they really wanted to.

It may be better to be as vocal as possible so that your being snuffed out serves as a warning -- if enough of the public remains sensate.


Mike said...

Part of why dismuke's supposition makes sense is that everybody knows the economy will do a certain amount of regression to the mean. If the Dems just tank the place for a year or so and blame it all on Bush, things should be improving steadily and measurably by late 2010 or so, no matter what anyone does.

Gus Van Horn said...

Just to be clear, I also think Dismuke is right about how the Dems will "handle" the economy.