Monday, May 22, 2006


Losing the House is a Winner for Bush.

I don't usually ponder things from the GOP side, but an article by Walter Pincus today got me thinking. It contains the usual narrative:
If Republicans retain Congress in November, Bush advisers note, he could assert that for the third straight election, the party defied historical patterns and popular predictions. Bush, they said, could advance a fresh agenda in early 2007. But they acknowledge that a House takeover by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would foreshadow a contentious final two years fending off congressional subpoenas and hostile legislation.
In fact, rather counter-intuitively, losing the House would be a huge political advantage for Bush. Let's play forward what happens if he retains it. Republicans will continue to fragment as they carve out niches to the right and left of Bush for the '08 elections. What we've seen with immigration is only a taste of coming attractions: on the economy, Bush loyalists will try to push through more tax cuts, but a newly-invigorated conservative wing will demand fiscal responsibility; Bush will try to stabilize Iraq and preserve some fragment of his legacy, but there will be big pressure from within the party to pull out; the fundie fringe will push regressive social issues on gay marriage, abortion, and stem cells, while moderates try to sound a conciliatory note. On down the line, Republicans, freed of having to combat Dems, will combat themselves.

On the other hand, if the Dems take the House, they will begin investigations into Bush's misdeeds, instantly galvanizing the GOP. The House and Senate will embark on radically different agendas, and this will temporarily mend growing GOP divisions.

In neither case will Bush be able to push through much of an agenda. But with both houses of Congress, this inaction will only highlight his futility, whereas with Dems controlling the House, each victory would be amplified. The GOP is a purely predatory party; they're great at swift-boating but piss-poor when it comes to governing. Two more years of control mean two more years of incompetence; but two years of divided rule means two years with a foe to slander. Bush, a champion divider, would do a lot better without a united Congress.


Charlie Burr said...

Holding a political advantage for its own sake is really no advantage at all; with a Democratic Congress it would be much more difficult for Bush's agenda to go unchecked.

Bush has been able to pass measures through THIS Congress and there's always the possibility that Bush's poll numbers bounce back after the election too.

Let's take back Congress. It's not a tough call.

Jeff Alworth said...

Charlie, I think you misinterpret the post. I'm saying that I question Pincus's thesis--and conventional wisdom--that it's best for Bush if the GOP control both houses. It's clearly worse for Dems if he does. (And it's only good for Bush--it's far worse for GOP legislators).

I hope VERY MUCH to see the Dems retake Congress.

zemeckis said...

i actually think the right has whipped their parties favorite issues into too much of a frenzy for them to hold together a united front for more than one photo op. almost an inverse of the late 60's an early 70's for the left, i hope.

and i'd rather not go farther down this rabbit hole, than we all ready have, it stinks and i'm not sure we'll be able to find our way out.

Charlie Burr said...

Jeff, I wasn't trying to misinterpret the post.

My point is that OK, maybe his numbers and political standing could be improved with a Democratic House, but this political "advantage" would be far outweighed by the increased difficulty he'd face passing his legislative agenda.

Ultimately, politics is about passing laws and governoring. There's a lot more involved, but this is the goal.

I understand the political benefits of divided government. After the 1994 midterm elections, the Republican Congress was an essential component of Clinton's comeback. But one big difference: Bush can't run again.

I do agree with you that regardless of who controls Congress, Bush is going to have trouble for his final two years. It's something of a cliche -- but I think true -- that's it's going to be lame duck time for the "decider."

Also, I'd point out that a Democratic Congress and a mildly rehabilitated Bush would be better for the next Dem Pres nominee than an embattled Bush and a Republican Congress. I think you can overstate the importance of the Congressionals in helping the nominee of their party, but especially in Ohio, Penn. and Florida, having a stronger indigenous grassroots organization in the battleground areas is important.

Charlie Burr said...

Also, I know how to spell "governing." I was just typing really quickly.

Jeff Alworth said...

This is the weirdest conversation I've had in awhile: debating what's the greatest political benefit to Bush. Look, I don't honestly care: I suspect history will regard him with extreme prejudice whether the Dems take the house or not. I do think his governoring days (a nice typo because it's so Bushian) are essentially over in either case, and your point about what benefits Dems in '08 is interesting.

But I'm sticking with my initial point with regard to the Pincus argument--that Bush needs both houses to advance his agenda--I don't buy it.