I don’t know if “be careful what you wish for” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb, but it does apply to this year’s mid-term elections. Most of my GOP friends are very happy about the expected takeover of the House of Representatives, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be enough big wins in Senate races to capture that chamber as well.
I certainly agree that Pelosi, Reid, et al, are a bunch of statists and that they deserve to lose, but that’s not the same as thinking that Republicans deserve to win. The GOP leaders in the House and Senate, after all, are mostly the same crowd that voted for bigger government and more intervention during the Bush years. Is there any reason to think that they’ve had epiphanies and now genuinely believe in freedom?
But even if you think that Boehner, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans now have their hearts in the right place, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be good for Republicans to re-take Congress. Let’s walk through the upsides and downsides.
The biggest upside, as noted above, is that the current crop of Democrats would lose. I realize it’s not nice to enjoy the misery of others, but I would take great pleasure in watching Reid and Pelosi eating crow tomorrow night as they discuss big Democratic defeats. In the same spirit, I would be happy that so many evil people would be sad, particularly the global warming fanatics and the government employee union bosses.
But I don’t think better public policy will be one of the upsides. Even if Republicans somehow win the Senate, it takes 60 votes to make big changes. That obviously won’t happen. Moreover, Obama surely would veto any reforms to shrink the burden of government.
This is a perfect segue to a discussion of the downsides of a GOP victory. One of those downsides, which already was mentioned, is that Republicans need more time in the wilderness to purge the big-government virus that ran rampant during the Bush years.
But the bigger concern is that Republican victories this year might reduce the odds for big wins in 2012. If the GOP takes full or partial control of Congress, that means they also will be at least somewhat responsible for anything that happens between now and the 2012 elections. And Obama, aided and abetted by the establishment press, will blame any bad news on Republicans.
This is the worst of all worlds. You don’t have the power to actually change policy, but you have enough power that people will blame you if they don’t like the results.
This is why the best result, from a long-term GOP perspective, is to win lots of seats, but to leave Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate. If Republicans wind up with 215 seats in the House and 49 seats in the Senate, that will be more than enough to block Obama from imposing additional bad policies (especially with the Senate filibuster). But Republicans won’t be in the difficult position of having illusory power to make changes.
And if everything goes well, this would put them in a position to enjoy big gains in 2012. That means winning the White House and capturing both chambers of Congress with big majorities.
That would please Republicans, but some of us are concerned about better public policy rather than partisan politics. So the goal is not to get more Republicans, but rather to get a Reagan-type person elected to the White House at same time that a 1994-style GOP Congress is elected.
As I’ve explained before, America is on a pre-determined path to being a European welfare state. Preventing that tragic result will require real control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. That might happen in 2012, but it will be less likely if the GOP takes over Congress in 2010. Food for thought.