The Miracle of Concrete Political Pressure


Jon Chait hails the apparent progress of financial regulatory reform legislation as a kind of political miracle. And I largely agree with his analysis. But I do think it needs to be pointed out that an important element in this seems to me to have been the fact that Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln was facing a primary challenge from a credible candidate in the form of Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Chait and I sparred a bit about the merits, from a progressive point of view, of this campaign. But one thing it seems to have done was make Lincoln hyper-sensitive to the possibility that she’d get tagged for watering reform down. It also suddenly gave the White House a huge amount of leverage over a conservative Democratic, since any hint of Presidential disapproval of her work on this issue would have been very problematic for her primary campaign.

Which just goes back to the point I’ve been trying to make over the months about different complaints about the administration not being “tough” enough on this or that. At the end of the day, politics mostly comes down to the presence or absence of concrete, specific pressure. With it, you don’t necessarily even need huge loads of tough talk. Without it, tough talk is basically useless.