Appeaser-in-Chief: Mr. Fix-It Goes to Washington

A new survey released today that’s getting a lot of play posed this question: “Regardless of whom you may support, who do you trust to do a better job of breaking the gridlock in Washington?” The result was that likely voters split 47% Romney to 37% Obama. So likely voters feel more confident that Mr. Fix-It can “break the gridlock.” Why do you suppose that is? Morning Tweets commenting on the survey admonished us to “Defeat Obama. End Gridlock,”  and “A vote for Obama is a vote for more gridlock.” Why is getting rid of Obama the solution for gridlock in Congress? Let’s ponder.

Imagine for a moment that Mitt Romney is elected next week, along with a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate as seems likely. With Obama out of the equation, this is still “divided government.” The Senate, controlled by Democrats, would continue to have the power to block whatever legislation the House, controlled by Republicans, passes. So why would a goodly majority of likely voters apparently view Romney as more likely to “do a better job of breaking the gridlock in Washington”?

The meme_ster has found one path to that conclusion, and it goes like this:

  • Republicans in the House and Senate have pursued a desperate and party-centric strategy over the past 4 years: If no problems get solved during the Obama administration, then voters will perceive Obama as a failure, and this will make voters more likely to prefer Republicans and thus return them to power in the White House and Senate.
  • To implement this strategy, Republicans in the House and Senate felt it more important to make sure no problems were solved during the Obama administration than to pass legislation to solve those problems (even, ironically, if Republicans were perceived as having solved the problems).
  • However if Mitt Romney is elected, the Republicans in the House and Senate will become interested in solving problems again, or so one hopes.
  • And (this is key) Democrats in the House and Senate will believe it is more important to solve problems than to sabotage a Romney administration.
  • Therefore, it is logical to assume that Romney would “do a better job of breaking the gridlock.” However, rational people can see the locus of power is with the perpetrators of the “gridlock” [a.k.a. obstruction], not with the president, whoever he might be. A more accurate slogan would be: “Defeat Republicans. End Gridlock.”

[Paul Krugman has a fascinating take on this question in his take-no-prisoners 11/2/12 column “The Blackmail Caucus,” in which he says, “The argument is phrased in terms of ‘partisan gridlock,’ as if both parties were equally extreme. But they aren’t. This is, in reality, all about appeasing the hard men of the Republican Party.” I updated the title of this post in Krugman’s honor.]

We might test this theory against Mr. Fix-it’s record as governor of Massachusetts, where he likes to remind us he worked in a bipartisan way with legislators who were “89 percent Democrats.” I’ve always thought that was amusing, because in general Democrats are willing to compromise in order to advance the common good. No proof of bipartisan prowess on behalf of the governor there, just legislators who are willing to do their job.

We can only imagine in our wildest dreams what problems might have been solved during the first Obama administration if the Republicans had been willing to do their job.

Did I mention Mitt Romney is white?

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About meme_ster

Tracking power through language
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