Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conservative Battle Fatigue

Mark Tapscott has penned a much commented-on piece suggesting that it might not be such a bad thing if Democrats take over one or both Houses of Congress.

First off, I don't think it's even possible really, that the Democrats could take over either House with a veto-proof majority. That would mean a gain of 87 House seats, and 12 Senate seats. I think pretty much everyone is agreed that neither of those things will happen.

And I definitely agree that Democrats would be unlikely to score any big initiatives when in marginal control of one House. But there would be scores and scores of small victories.

First off would be investigations. They would be designed to discredit the President, the administration, and the War on Terror. From their bully pulpits, Democratic Committee Chairmen would scold Republican witnesses about the foolish, clumsy, and unethical actions of the Bush administration. Conservative bloggers would come to the defense of the administration, and would fight the MSM to convince the great middle of the truth.

Also, Democrats would be able to pass initiative that 'sound nice,' but which Republican majorities have kept bottled up because we think they're bad ideas. So say hello to higher fuel economy standards, more mandates on health insurance coverage, ends to limits on jury awards, and anything else that you can think of along those lines. And of course, the agenda would shift from tax reduction to budget-balancing (through tax increases, obviously). Can Democrats in control of one House convince the other, Republican-controlled House to pass some of these? Probably. And then we'll see whether the President can veto all of them.

But the biggest danger lies in the appropriations bills. They contain tens of thousands of programs, and can contain millions of directions to the Executive Branch as to how they are to be implemented. And no President could veto more than a small proportion. So we would see Democrats shift from abstinence education to abortion funding, and we would see dozens of small spending items forcing the US to 'fight global warning.' And we would see micro-managing of foreign policy (remember when the Democratic Congress cut off Contra funding in the 1980s). There would be the fairness doctrine, and assistance to states for voter registration drives, and financial incentives for states to move election day to weekends. There would be limits on campaign speech, more mandates on health care - with the goal of making it so costly that eventually the government needs to 'bail out' the system completely. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be back up. We would see limitations on interrogation techniques that count as 'torture.' There would be requirements that the administrtion produce a full accounting of all prisoners taken in the War on Terror - and where they are held, and for how long. Or to whom their custody was transferred, and what happened to them after. Welfare reform would be undone, states would be encouraged to shift away from prisons and toward rehabilitation of criminals. For any area of public policy, you can think of liberal instructions as to how programs are supposed to work. The President will be asked to veto all of them, and the MSM will be against him every step of the way.

Of course, in some ways the President would benefit greatly from this. He would again be loved by Conservatives, because he would no longer be the face of compromise with Democrats; he would be the person blocking them. Government would most assuredly shift left, and his administration would look like carrion to the Congressional vultures, but Conservatives would be back on his side.

Apart from these happy thoughts, the "K Street Project" would come back, in reverse. Lobbyists would have to be Democrats. Corporate donors would have to give far more money to Democrats than Republicans, and if they did not, they would suffer. But unlike with Tom DeLay's version of the project, this version would not be criticized by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others. As a result, Democratic candidates would benefit from having the support of Labor (oh by the way? forget about 'paycheck protection'), they would also have healthy support from the business community. That would go for candidates at all levels - especially gubernatorial races. Because in 2008, states will elect a raft of governors who will preside over the drawing of Congressional lines for the period of 2010-2020. So Democrats will put a priority in taking away governors' seats, so as to entrench a Democratic Congressional majority through gerrymandering.

If you are willing to risk this, by all means sit out 2006. I prefer the Geraghty solution.

I'm not saying this would mean the end of the world - obviously only some of this stuff WILL happen. Plus we survived Bill Clinton, and this would be better than that. I mean, what are the chances that Al Qaeda would use this opportunity to regroup and attack again?

But it's simply not reasonable to count on Democrats being in power only a short time. It's positively silly to count on a Republican comeback in 2008. Democratic overreach could very well cause it, but then again, that's exactly what people said in 1992. They said that if we got rid of George Bush senior, and the White House went over to a philandering draft dodger, then we'd get it right back in 1996 and be stronger than ever. That didn't happen. And we elected Al Gore to handle September 11, and everything that went with it. Is the current dissatisfaction with Congressional Republicans - a dissatisfaction that I share on a range of issues - really worth it?

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