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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ezra Klein: The GOP’s extremist strategy worked; Romney benefited, America lost

Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog post, “Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s strategy worked” finds a common denominator in recent endorsements of Romney:

…In endorsement after endorsement, the basic argument is that President Obama hasn’t been able to persuade House or Senate Republicans to work with him. If Obama is reelected, it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue to refuse to work with him. So vote Romney!
That’s not even a slight exaggeration. Take the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest and most influential paper. They endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008. But this year, they endorsed Romney.
Why? In the end, they said, it came down to a simple test. “Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.”

Klein says that The Register argues that President Obama has abandoned bipartisanship, while crediting Romney with bipartisanship as Governor of Massachusetts — despite the fact that Obama “spent most of 2011 negotiating with John Boehner.” He notes a similar argument in the Orlando Sentinel endorsement of Romney and cites David Brooks’ Romney endorsement being based on a greater likelihood that the Republican would have a better chance of securing bipartisan cooperation.
Klein recalls Republican statements citing the defeat of President Obama as the mother of all GOP priorities but adds,

While it’s true that President Romney could expect more cooperation from congressional Republicans, in the long term, a vote against Obama on these grounds is a vote for more of this kind of gridlock. Politicians do what wins them elections. If this strategy wins Republicans the election, they’ll employ it next time they face a Democratic president, too, and congressional Democrats will use it against the next Republicans. Rewarding the minority for doing everything in their power to make the majority fail sets up disastrous incentives for the political system.

Klein is right that the strategy worked in securing some ill-considered endorsements for Romney. Yet, a vote for Romney is a vote to institutionalize political extortion as the new driving wheel of American politics. “We care less about enacting any policies that benefit the American people than defeating a Democratic president” is a pretty infantile approach to political deliberation.
Voters who want a return to some semblance of bipartisan cooperation would be far wiser not to reward the perpetrators of political extortion, the party of Gridlock, Obstruction and Paralysis. Giving them a sound thrashing up and down ballot would more likely accomplish that goal.

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