Elections Have Consequences?

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"Elections Have Consequences?"

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John Meachem offers us an example of the problems with a journalism model in which it’s more important for pundits to be interesting and buzzworthy than to say something true and informative:

But I think we should be taking the possibility of a Dick Cheney bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 more seriously, for a run would be good for the Republicans and good for the country. (The sound you just heard in the background was liberal readers spitting out their lattes.)

Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people. The best way to settle arguments is by having what we used to call full and frank exchanges about the issues, and then voting. A contest between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama would offer us a bracing referendum on competing visions. One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction. A Cheney victory would mean that America preferred a vigorous unilateralism to President Obama’s unapologetic multilateralism, and vice versa.

There are a ton of problems with this, especially the odd description of Democratic behavior during the Bush years,* but let’s just stick with this implicit contrast. Why didn’t Obama vs McCain have this impact. McCain is a “vigorous” unilateralist. And he ran on a platform of lower taxes, and deregulating health care. Obama ran on multilateralism, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more stringent regulation of health insurers. And guess what, despite his electoral victory the people in congress who want to vote down his agenda still feel comfortable doing so.

The fact of the matter is that American political institutions give parties that lose elections a substantial amount of ability to influence public policy. If you think this is a bad thing, then the thing to do is push for changes to those institutions. The low-hanging fruit here is elements of senate procedure like the filibuster and the practice of putting “holds” on nominees.

* During his early months in office, Bush succeeded in attracting substantial Democratic legislative support for his signature tax cut initiative. Then came 9/11. He had sky-high approval ratings, including positive marks from most Democrats, got overwhelming bipartisan backing for an invasion of Afghanistan, got a very bipartisan legislative coalition behind No Child Left Behind, got a lot of Democrats to support him on Iraq, and then got at least a bit of Democratic support for his Medicare reforms. All this despite the fact that there were some real questions about his legitimacy. It’s very frustrating to see the MSM consistently eliding the difference between “many rank-and-file Democrats passionately disliked George W Bush” and “Republican Party members of congress offered uniform legislative opposition to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

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