“The Republican Party is Screwed”

Josh Barro:

Murphy urges Republicans to talk about “economic freedom.” But Mitt Romney did talk a lot about that, and middle-class voters weren’t impressed, because calls for lower taxes and less regulation are not responsive to their need for more jobs and higher wages. Murphy also urges “reform of government institutions like schools,” but that’s an issue for state and local officials.

In order to appeal to the broad middle-class, the party will have to adopt some economic policies that its big donors don’t want. As Ross Douthat points out on Twitter, that means Murphy may have picked the wrong side of the Republican schism: Social conservatives are more likely to signal openness to pro-middle class economic policies than the “hardheaded business types” who fund the party.

But social conservative interest in non-plutocratic economic policy looks awfully soft. When you look at the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential primaries, social conservatives threw in their lot with the candidates pushing the most regressive economic policies. Mike Huckabee sounds good rhetorical notes about middle-class economic struggles, but he’s also a backer of the hugely regressive “Fair Tax.” While the donor base drives the Republican Party’s orthodoxy on economic policy, conservative activists are not exactly being dragged along — they, too, are opposed to pro-middle class policies.

The upshot is that the Republican Party is screwed: It’s in for a lot of infighting, but both sides of the party’s internal fight are committed to economic policies that are not saleable to the broader public.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, Josh is correct. I would probably fall on the side that Murphy represents and so would many Republicans that don’t care much about the social issues. But the problem isn’t just the social issues, it’s also the economic ones as well. The party is going to have to go through a wholesale makeover, not just a touchup. None of this means that the GOP becomes the diet version of the Democrats, but it does mean speaking to the economic realities Americans face in ways better than they are currently doing and in ways far better than what the Dems are selling. As Barro says in an earlier piece, conservatives are going to have to get used to talking about redistribution.

The GOP and Redistribution

From Chris Ladd:

Income redistribution is one of the principle functions of civilization.  It’s what America does and Somalia and Haiti do not do.  Americans of all income groups and political parties benefit from income redistribution all the livelong day.  If income redistribution makes people “dependent” on government, then humankind has been “dependent” since we gave up hunting mammoths for food.

Never mind the more obvious examples like roads, police, and courts.  Without income distribution in the form of government agencies, mortgage market supports, and very generous tax subsidies there would be practically no middle class home ownership in this country.  The elderly, other than the extremely wealthy, would not be able to afford modern medical care in almost any form.  Almost none of the medicines you use would have been invented.  Without income redistribution very few of us would be capable of reading this.

Income redistribution is the reason those highly independent red state conservatives who live on farms far from cities and claim they need nothing from the government have access to electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, doctors, telephones, and the Internet.  Not to mention that without direct government subsidies most of what remains of family farming in this country would disappear overnight.

Republicans vs. African Americans, Part 2,225

I like to read Rod Dreher’s blog over at the American Conservative and occassionally  like to add my view points.  I’m guessing that I’m not provocative enough, because no one ever notices what I say.  One of this most recent posts is on Conservatives and Black Folk and it has set off a discussion or at least a shoutfest.  Below are my comments to his post.  I have to add that I get a little bit tired of this debate mostly because it engages in blaming each other.  Liberals and African Americans talk about how racist conservatives are and conservatives fire back about how useless it is to reach blacks, blah, blah, blah.  I really wish that both sides would put aside their egos and sit down and listen to each other.

As I read this post, I had to heave a heavy sigh, frankly because I’m tired of dealing with it.

From the viewpoint of this African American that voted for Romney, I have a few points.

First, while there have been some racially tinged rhetoric coming from conservatives, I don’t think that conservatives are automatically racist.

Second, while I don’t think conservativatism = racism, that is the bias that conservatives have to live with. The larger society thinks this and speaking from experience, it is hard to break free of a sterotype.

Third, conservatives aren’t racist, but when it comes to the concerns of African Americans, they tend to neglect us and focus on white people. During the election, the only visible time that Romney spoke to African Americans was at the NAACP convention and there he was denouncing Obamacare and not offering a viable alternative. Since many African Americans tend to be in a more precarious situation than whites when it comes to employment, that means we are more likely to lose health insurance, which means not going to the doctor and dealing with all the health issues that blacks deal with like high blood pressure and diabetes. Again, Romney wasn’t racist, but in talking about repealing Obamacare and offering nothing in its place made African Americans think that the GOP doesn’t care about them.

Fourth, while Rod is correct that African Americans won’t ever become a major part of the GOP coalition, it really doesn’t need to get every vote, it just needs to get enough votes. In the 50-50 nation we live in, what matters is getting enough votes from different groups to eke a victory. The GOP will never get the majority of black votes, but if it can make in-roads; say make it a goal to get 15-20%, then you might make a difference.

Fifth, conservatives have to do more than what I call “showroom diversity.” You see this every four years at the convention when a number of persons of color speak at at the podium. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if there are very few delegates on the floor that match the diversity at the podium, then you aren’t going to get the attention of African Americans.

Sixth, the GOP has to actually go to black communities and listen to African Americans. Hear about our lives and what we think we need. The party doesn’t have to pander to us, but they need to tailor conservative ideas to the lives of black folks. I’m sorry, but a tax cut ain’t gonna help.

Finally, conservatives as a whole need to stop unintentional race baiting. Let me explain. After the Trayvon Martin incident, there was a lot of press in the conservative media about that insinuated that Martin was nothing but a thug. While there might have been no racist intent, to African Americans, especially those with sons, it seemed that conservatives were going after black men. I can tell you as a black man, I’ve been looked at as something to fear when in reality I’m about as harmless as a bunny rabbit. There were ways of talking about this without slandering a dead black kid. When such things happen, other conservatives need to speak up and set the record straight. You can’t just ignore it or act like it wasn’t a big deal because to blacks it is.

That’s my two cents.

Rand Paul and the GOP Future

From Mike Dwyer:

The key for the GOP to move forward is not a national mea culpa where they beg forgiveness for being too rigid in the past. The point is to begin to move forward on the issues conservatives can support and on others, same-sex marriage being the most obvious, conservatives need to quietly begin to withdraw their opposition…

Senator Paul seems to understand that.

Dirty, Rotten Republicans?

Jim Geraghty of National Review opines that conservative ideas won on November 6, but conservative candidates, not so much.  Why?  Because they come off as mean:

Conservative ideas, though, won in distinctly Democratic-leaning states once the word “Republican” was no longer associated with them. In Michigan, where Obama won handily, a push to enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution was roundly defeated, 58 to 42 percent. In California, voters rejected a proposition to repeal the death penalty, rejected mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, and also rejected Proposition 38, which would have added funding to education and early-childhood programs by raising taxes on those making as little as $75,000 a year. In Virginia, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment making it tougher for the state government to seize private property under eminent domain — while Romney and George Allen were losing statewide.

So why are Republicans so much less popular than their ideas? A ubiquitous accusation from their Democratic rivals, echoed by an allied media, is that Republicans lack empathy to the point of displaying sheer meanness. With Obama running up huge margins among various demographics — African-Americans, Hispanics, women, young people — the argument is that the GOP increasingly represents an aging, white, bitter, and angry rump of the electorate, lashing out nastily at a world changing too fast for them.

More:

At a recent conservative gathering, one well-known pundit exclaimed, “Why can’t I marry my cat?”

Now, think about how this argument sounds to any gay or lesbian or to anyone who loves them — to their mothers, fathers, brothers, and friends. It takes a consensual relationship that more and more Americans see practiced by their friends, neighbors, and relatives and equates it with criminal acts, among the most reviled in our society. Put another way, if some jerk in a bar came up and compared your relationship to your spouse to bestiality, you would probably be sorely tempted to knock his teeth out.

Are gays and lesbians welcome in the GOP or conservative movement? Arguments and jokes like that send the signal they aren’t.

To a lot of people outside the party, this is pretty obvious, but it is good to see someone within the GOP (and not a moderate “squish”) say this.

Demographics or the Red Social Model

Within a few moments of knowing President Obama had secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term, the explanations and recriminations had begun.  The two that bubbled up to the surface were demographics and social issues.  People saw this victory as proof that the new minority-majority America that we have been told was coming finally arose.  This meant the dawn a new Democratic era where the the GOP would be reduced to regional rump of a party.

The other issue that came to fore was the party’s views on same sex marriage and abortion rights.  If only they were able to pass an immigration bill to please Latinos or support same sex marriage, well, the party would be saved.

Now, being a gay African American/Puerto Rican such talk should be music to my ears.  After all, I am the mythical diverse voter that the GOP needs.  But this mythical voter doesn’t think making a few changes such immigration reform or allowing my partner and I to legally wed will bring salvation to the party of Lincoln.

First off, it’s not like the GOP is openly hostile to minorities.  The George W. Bush Adminstration placed not one but two African Americans in the positon of Secretary of State.  The 2012 GOP convention in Tampa had the likes of Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez and Condaleeza Rice as speakers.  A racist political party would not have such people speaking in front of them.  As for the gay issue, the party has been making some halting moves towards inclusion.  Lost in the headlines was the fact that an openly gay Republican ran for a House seat in Massachusetts.

Diversity is important, and I do think there is room for improvement.  But demographics is only the dessert to a bigger issue: the economy.

It’s easy to get more black folk up on the dais of a convention to speak; it’s a lot harder to figure out how to help people in a changing economy.

Walter Russell Mead has talked about the disintergration of the blue social model.  For those who don’t know that phrase, it talks about the guiding rule of American Society from the New Deal onward.  Here’s how Mead describes the model:

The blue model rested on the post-Second World War industrial and economic system.  The ‘commanding heights’ of American business were controlled by a small number of monopolistic and oligopolistic firms.  AT&T, for example, was the only serious telephone company in the whole country, and both the services it offered and the prices it could charge were tightly regulated by the government.  The Big Three car-makers had a lock on the car market; in the halcyon days of the blue model there was no foreign competition.  A handful of airlines divided up the routes and the market; airlines could not compete by offering lower prices or by opening new routes without special government permission.  Banks, utilities, insurance companies, trucking companies had their rates and, essentially, their profit levels set by federal regulators.

The stable economic structure allowed a stable division of the pie.  Workers (much more heavily unionized then than now) got steady raises and stable jobs.  The government got a stable flow of tax revenues.  Shareholders got reasonably steady dividends.

This system was all about security and stability.  This was the system my mother and father encountered when the arrived in Michigan from Puerto Rico and Louisiana  respectively.  You got a job at one of the Big Three automakers and you were set.

But life started change in Michigan and the rest of the nation in the 70s.  Mead notes:

The blue model began to decay in the seventies.  Foreign producers began to erode the market share of lazy, sclerotic American firms–like the Big Three automakers.  The growth of offshore financial markets forced the financial services industry to become more flexible as both borrowers and lenders were increasingly able to work around the regulations and the oligopolies of the domestic market.  Demand for new communications services created an appetite for competition against Ma Bell.  The consumer movement attacked regulations that were clearly designed to protect companies; Teddy Kennedy was a cosponsor of the bill to deregulate the airlines.  Anti-corporate liberals rebelled at the way government power and regulation was being used to allow corporations to give their consumers the shaft.

As the old system dissolved, companies had to become more flexible.  As industry became more competitive, private sector managers had to shed bureaucratic habits of thought.  Lifetime employment had to go.  Productive workers had to be lured with high pay.  The costs of unionization grew; in the old days, government regulators simply allowed unionized firms to charge higher prices to compensate them for their higher costs.  The collapse of the regulated economy (plus the rise of foreign competition from developing countries) made unions unsustainably expensive in many industries.

 

If you haven’t already guessed, this system was powerful during the years of Democratic party dominance.  As that system started to decay, the Dems started to lose power.

As this old model is passing by, there has not been a response from the Republicans.  There has been no Red Social Model. When people look to the party for answers on how to deal with the new economic uncertainty, they get an odd response about lowering taxes- an answer that seems to fit all situations.

I think that’s the reason the GOP lost so big this year.  Yes. the President hasn’t done much and the economy is still in the doldrums.  He hasn’t really told the public what he will do in his second term.  But when people looked to the GOP for an alternative, they found…nothing.  The voting public would rather go with the devil they knew.

Take for example health care.  People are not crazy with Obamacare.  The GOP latched on to that and used to make big gains in the 2010 midterms.  Mitt Romney said one the first actions as President would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But as much as people didn’t like the President’s plan, at least it was a plan compared to…..well, nothing on the Republican side.

In his weekly column, Ross Douthat explains that middle class Americans are facing economic pressures and are not finding good answers from the GOP:

What the party really needs, much more than a better identity-politics pitch, is an economic message that would appeal across demographic lines — reaching both downscale white voters turned off by Romney’s Bain Capital background and upwardly mobile Latino voters who don’t relate to the current G.O.P. fixation on upper-bracket tax cuts.

As the American Enterprise Institute’s Henry Olsen writes, it should be possible for Republicans to oppose an overweening and intrusive state while still recognizing that “government can give average people a hand up to achieve the American Dream.” It should be possible for the party to reform and streamline government while also addressing middle-class anxieties about wages, health care, education and more.

The good news is that such an agenda already exists, at least in embryonic form. Thanks to four years of intellectual ferment, Republicans seeking policy renewal have a host of thinkers and ideas to draw from: Luigi Zingales and Jim Pethokoukis on crony capitalism,Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert Stein on tax policy, Frederick Hess on education reform,James Capretta on alternatives to Obamacare, and many more.

The bad news is that unlike a pander on immigration, a new economic agenda probably wouldn’t be favorably received by the party’s big donors, who tend to be quite happy with the Republican Party’s current positioning.

In light of the disintergrating blue social model, there needs to be a red social model to come and fill its place.  People want to know how they can pay for college or have some kind of health care even if they lose their job.  The GOP circa 2012 couldn’t find an answer to give the people and they chose accordingly.

Becoming a bit more diverse is a good thing, but in this post-civil rights era, is not as pressing as some have made it out to be.  What really matters to the middle class family in the suburbs and the single mom in the inner city is how to keep their heads above the raging economic waters.

Trying to answer these “bread and butter” issues will take some time.  But I think if the GOP can find away to address the anxieties of millions of Americans, they might have a shot of having the chance to govern again.

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”

My apologies for going so long without a post.  Part of it has to do with me being a bit more cynical about politics these days.  But something has made me want to write a post, so I’m back at least for a little bit.

As the Romney campaign seems to be behind in the polls, there has been a raft of articles about the state of conservatism and the Republican party.  Here’s David Brooks talking about the loss of traditional conservatism. There’s Rod Dreher talking about his losing faith in the GOP after Katrina. Here’s Conor Friedersdorf talking about how conservative media is not helping the GOP. Doug Mataconis talks about how to fix the Republican Party.  Economist Scott Sumner calls the GOP “the stupid party.” I could go on.

There was a time that I was invested in articles like this and would write blog posts talking about how the GOP needed to change and so on.  I still believe the GOP is in trouble and needs to change, and I don’t disagree with what these writers and others have to say about the party.  But I can’t say that I’m excited enough to run to my computer nodding in agreement.  Acutally, reading some of the articles leave me more annoyed than anything.  I’m annoyed because I know these as much as these cris de coeur make sense, I know that they won’t really lead to any real change.  There were a number of these articles four years ago after McCain lost the election and nothing much came from them.

In an email I wrote to Rod Dreher, I explained what I think is missing in these denunciations:

Rod,

I’ve been reading your posts on how the GOP should change with some interest.  I’ve been involved at some level of Republican activism for about a decade now, mostly through Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection.  Politically, I am probably a mix of the old Rockefeller Republican with a healthy dose of libertarianism mixed in.  While I found your articles engaging, I also came away frustrated.  I believe its important to read some of the great conservative philosophers but I am left feeling that reading Kirk and ignoring Fox is not enough. 

What has frustrated me the most about heterodox conservatives is how much they complain about what is wrong with conservatism and how much these folks disdain the give and take of everyday politics.  It’s as if people want something different, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty in trying.  Over the years, I’ve seen people who seem to have some passion in changing the GOP get fired up for a bit and then leave.  There’s no will to stay and change things for the better. 

The thing is, if people want a Republican Party that has a less hawkish foreign policy, is fiscally conservative and is interested in the common good and not just the self, then people have to get involved.  Yes. we need an intellectual foundation, but we also need other organizations that can support and put forth candidates that can carry these ideas and bring these ideas to fruition.

But all of this means getting involved and having to actually persuade people towards this vision of conservatism.  And that’s something we don’t want to do.

So keep up the writing on this topic.  But unless folks move from thinking to action, don’t expect the GOP or conservatism to change.

I’ve written about this before.  I’m not saying things are great in the GOP.  There are a lot of problems.  But I am reminded of something I said a few years ago to a colleague as she complained about the lack of a children’s ministry at the church I am serving at.  I basically told her in my usual subtle way, “What Are You Going to Do About It?”

“What Are You Going to Do About It?” Yes, I know you have aren’t crazy about the GOP. Good for you for sharing it.  But, so what?  Do you really think the Eric Ericksons of the conservative blogosphere give a rip what you think?  Do you really think just bitching about how wrong the party and the conservative movement is will make things change?

The thing that bothers me is not that these folks are complaining: it’s that they aren’t really offering ideas on what should happen next, let alone how to refashion American conservatism.

In 2010, I wrote about “Why Moderate Republicans Suck.”  What I wrote back then applies to those heterodox conservatives as well:

…the hard right is a movement. There are groups of like-minded individuals that come together and are able to force change in the party. A single person realizes they are part of a larger movement and that gives them the stregnth to march forward.

On the other side, moderates are at best a collection of individuals.  We tend to feel lost and alone and don’t feel a connection to anything greater than us. Because we are isolated, we don’t feel as empowered and tend to give up easily.

If the GOP is to moderate, then there needs to be an effective moderate movement within the GOP forcing change. Nothing will ever happen unless these collection of frustrated individuals come together and organize.

Hence, why we moderates suck.

If we want to see the GOP reform, there has to be Something more: think tanks, political PACs to help hetrodox candidates run for office, committed activists.

I don’t expect Brooks or Friedersdorf or any other the other writers to take up the busy work of a countermovement.  But I would like to hear them urge folks to be “mad as hell and not take it anymore.”  I want them to urge people to run for office or organize a bunch of people to go to the next state caucus.  I just want something that will move this beyond the complaining stage.

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”  It’s a question I fear we are afraid of answering.

The Morality of Health Care Reform

Do Republicans care about heath care reform?

That has been the questions a lot of bloggers have been asking in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.  The answer from many of those bloggers, including some that lean libertarian, has been a resounding no.

Is it true?

Yes and no.

As Ross Douthat notes today, there have been several proposals over the last few years from lawmakers and even the Bush Administration to try to reform health care.  Many of those proposals went nowhere for various reasons, but there has been some effort from the Right to deal with the problem of health care coverage in America.

But as Douthat also notes, there isn’t really a constituency in the GOP coalition calmoring for health care reform.  So, while lawmakers and policy wonks come up with market-based solutions to the providing health care coverage, there is not that much interest among the organizations and voters who tend to lean Republican.  There has been a lot of ruckus against the health care law, which is why there has been so much noise to repeal Obamacare and not so much to replace it.

The GOP is playing politics, while coming up short on policy.  Douthat’s final paragraph spells out how repealing the ACA would be a moral scandal to the party:

If the Republicans win the White House and the Senate and then somehow manage to repeal Obamacare without putting any significant reforms in its place, it will represent not only policy malpractice, but a moral scandal as well.

I think Douthat is correct here.  The problem of the lack of health care coverage is a real problem in America, one that I have myself encountered one-too-many times.  I have a lot of philosophical and ideological problems with Obamacare, but I also think that a woefully imperfect plan is better than no plan at all. Part of my support for some kind of health care reform comes from my Christian faith and Rod Dreher pretty much sums up my reasoning:

…as a practicing Christian, I find it hard to justify a society as well-off as ours tolerating a situation in which so many people lack affordable, decent health care. Back when Congress was debating Obamacare, I was prepared to believe that Obama’s proposal was unacceptable, but it bothered me a lot that the Republicans had nothing to offer in its place. It seemed to me that they were implicitly denying that affordable health care was a problem.

That said, I don’t think that the GOP will heed Douthat’s warning.  The reason being, there has been no price to pay for coming out against the law.  Yes, there has been tons of ink spilled on how conservatives want people to die, but I doubt that most movement conservatives care.  They see polls that say that folks are against the law, and the base is fired up against the act.  Why would you care about morality when it seems like there is a wave of people supporting you?

I think one of two things have to happen before we see GOP leadership embrace health care reform: a dramatic loss at the polls that de-legitimizes the tactics of pure politics, or a growing voice for reform from constituencies from within the party.

Repeal and Replace?

Tyler Cowen offered this observation about the Republicans in regards to health care:

The Republican Party, by the way, still doesn’t have a coherent alternative for health care reform, nor do they seem willing to embrace many of the better parts of ACA, such as (partially) deregulating dentistry or the Medicare Advisory Board.  Romney seems to want to replace the mandate with more expensive tax credits.  Furthermore, I believe that many Republican legislators would rather run against an unpopular Obamacare than to have to craft an actual, legislate-able alternative.

I think he’s is correct- to a point.  The GOP hasn’t really put forward an alternative to Obamacare which has led a lot of folks to make the same charge that Cowen makes.  But I think what is forgotten in all of this is that there really isn’t an incentive for Republicans to offer an alternative.

Back in 2009-10 former Utah Senator Robert Bennett worked with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden on a healthcare alternative to the Obama plan.  Bennett’s reward for coming up with a plan?  He lost a shot at another term in Congress.

Most of the bloggers that I follow tend to think that policy is something that should be above politics.  I wish it were so, but it isn’t.  Policy is in many cases driven by politics and that’s what is going on here with the GOP and health reform.  It’s not that there aren’t credible ideas coming from conservatives; it’s that in this 50/50 political climate that we live in there is no incentive to really push for credible reform.  The GOP has won in the recent pass with no real plans to change health care.  There is no cost to them for NOT providing an alternative plan.  There IS a lot of reward for running against the plan and talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act.  It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis: it makes more sense to be against the President’s plan than it does to come up with another idea.

There is another reason that the GOP won’t come up with a replacement: the media and the Democrats.  When Republicans do come forward with ideas to reform some aspect of health care, it is usually viewed unfavorably by both groups (ie: Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is viewed as wanting to kill little old ladies).

I believe the GOP won’t put forth a serious idea until one of two things happen: the GOP coalition falls apart and they are cast in a permanent minority as they were from the 30s until the 90s; or a crisis of some kind is so severe that the normal rules of politics are suspended and their hand is forced.

None of this means that the Republicans should be excused for not coming up with a real plan.  But unless the political cost-benefit analysis changes, you are not going to see any GOP legislator champion comprehensive reform.

PS:  The Spring edition of National Affairs does have one idea for replacing Obamacare that people might want to take a look at.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Jay Cost always seems to come across as a bit to cynical for my taste, but he does make a valid point in his latest column.  He comments on the recent article by Washington think tankers Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann who basically blame the GOP for the current partisan atmosphere.

Cost doesn’t buy that and in a way explains why there is less bipartisanship in Washington:

The American political process is starting to break down because of major changes to the political economy of this country. For half a century after World War II, the economy grew at such an incredible pace that we could have low taxes, high social welfare benefits, and a low deficit. This was one of the major reasons why there could be bipartisanship. Economic growth bankrolled these “great” compromises. It had very little to do with the foresight, courage, or moderation of the pols in Washington. They were just riding the wave generated by the private sector.

But all that seems to be over now. For more than a decade (not just the Great Recession but going back to 2000), economic growth has been far below its postwar average, and too low to keep the old regime afloat. You can’t have low taxes, high spending, and low deficits when the economy can’t break 3 percent growth.

This is something the D.C. establishment still does not seem to get. For years, their “farsighted,” bipartisan compromises were possible because the guys with the green eyeshades told them that the economy would grow to fill the gaps that they couldn’t fill. But now the economy can’t do that – so we have a mind-bogglingly large deficit and increased polarization in the political sphere.

I think Cost is wrong in saying that things like courage, foresight and moderation don’t matter (interesting how conservatives that like to tout values all the time, abandon them when it suits their interest).  That said, I also think that bipartisanship doesn’t happen in a vacumn.  One of the reasons we were able to get things like Medicare was because we could afford it in ways that we really can’t these days.  Also, the economy was humming along with growth rates we can only envy.  So, in such an environment, parties could compromise.

But when the economy is not growing as well and when the grand bargain of the past stops working, then we are going to get what we have now.

None of this means we should act nastily towards each other, but it does mean that even if we were to elect more Democrats as Ornstein and Mann suggest, we wouldn’t have a nicer Washington because the major factor of the economy is still there making it hard for everybody.