Saturday, October 01, 2011

Should We Hope for a Republican Sweep?

Like many other people unhappy with the administration, I have been worried by the apparent inability of the Republicans to find a candidate who is both electable and likely to make a significant improvement, and worried that they may end up losing an election that they ought to win. Thinking about it this evening, it occurred to me that perhaps that isn't such a bad outcome.

Suppose the Republicans convert Obama's current unpopularity into majorities in both House and Senate, but manage to lose the presidential election. Would that outcome be obviously worse than one in which they won everything?

There is much to be said for divided government. Consider what happened the last time the Republicans had both Congress and the White House.

Or, for that matter, the last time the Democrats did.


Loquitur Veritatem said...

If Republicans hold both houses of Congress by less than veto-proof majorities, their ability to roll back Obama's excesses will be nullified by Obama's veto pen.

joeftansey said...

If it is a sweep of mainstream republicans, I agree. If it is a sweep because Ron Paul wins... well that's different. A republican congress would probably accept a lot of Paul's plans, if only because they would otherwise have to go through the trouble of explaining why they can't get behind a fellow republican.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul has a better chance than people expect. Betting markets put him at 30-1. I think markets are wrong and he's at least 15-1! You still expect to lose but its a +100% EV bet.

maybe I'm biased cause the only places in the US that I visit are the most libertarian ones (Fairfax, VA and Las Vegas, NV)! But if you type "Obama vs Ron Paul" on google and look at polls on ALL states, he's 1-2 percentage points away.

brauneyz said...

Paying the salaries of the President and Congress Critters to nullify each other seems a huge waste of money. Can't we do better than this? Is this really what our founding fathers envisioned?

Vote for Gary Johnson. You'll be throwing it away, but sleeping better.

Anonymous said...

and obama gets to select supreme court justices!

David Friedman said...

"and obama gets to select supreme court justices"

He gets to propose them, but the Senate has to approve them.

Anonymous said...

David, I think the situation is different than it was in 2000, and in fairness, things would have gone differently with Bush sans 9-11.

I think there is an interesting scenario to consider. A Republican sweep, perhaps with a soft Republican president (like Romney for example), and a strong tea party push to get spending and taxes under control.

But here is the sting in the tail. Europe is just about ready to implode. If the Repubs can indeed make the US much more business friendly, and Europe collapses, do we see a mass flight of business out of Europe to the US? Would that be enough to compensate for the massive damoclesian inflation produced by the Feds profligacy, and hidden by the Obama stalled economy. (Look at the M3/M1 ratios for more on this.)

Dick White said...

David's comments on judges may imply a standoff. I don't think so. After the Senate rejects one (or a number) of Obama preferred jurists, the pressure will be enormous on the Senate to relax the ideology. The media will ensure it won't be on the President. It's relatively easy to submit a seemingly balanced candidate who will then be confirmed and shift the court to the left. Given the ages/health of the present court, this will likely happen more than once in the term. In my view the successful moderate nominee will more likely resemble (ex post) Stevens, Warren or Souter than Kennedy or White.

econtiger said...

This saying comes to mind: "A Republican is nothing more than a Democrat who campaigns as a Libertarian, but once in office, runs government as a Democrat."

That being said, I think the recent focus on debt and government size has altered the equation somewhat from when Bush was in office with GOP majorities in the House and Senate and proceeded to increase the size and scope of government, not reduce it.

Anyhow, one likely scenario is the GOP sweeps, but unemployment remains high for a few more years leading to GOP losses is 2014.

I don't entirely discount a significant increase in employment over the next few years, but it's about as likely that employment won't significantly recover.

Regarding Europe, rather than a European crisis causing a flood of economic growth in the US, while certainly possibly, I see the opposite as equally likely. Taking a large hit from foreign trade and investment with Europe could result in extended negative sentiment, lengthening the time it takes for the US to achieve full employment.

For example, just look at what happened within the EU. Germany's relatively strong economy did see large inflows in investment resulting in lower interest rates as investors shuffled funds from the PIIGS into Germany etc. But, at the same time, GDP growth in Germany has slowed down. It isn't obvious at this point that Germany has benefited from the crisis at the expense of others. Rather, imo it is more likely Germany will experience some contraction over the next few years as it deals with currency issues, export market issues, and some write-downs of sovereign debt in its banks.

Anonymous said...

As someone who generally roots for Republicans, I concede that a clean sweep is less than ideal. The anti-immigrant tone of the likely winners of the White House means that economic damage will be done by restricting immigration, and there is a real danger that deficit reduction might actually happen in the short run which would be very bad for an economy teetering on the brink of recession and very far away from full employment.

On the other hand, the single greatest attack on individual liberty and the economy in my lifetime, Obamacare, would likely be repealed after a clean sweep. And the with the momentum against regulation building daily, we might actually see at least a halt in the writing of new regulations, if not actual roll back.

On balance, I will be voting a straight Republican ticket and praying that if Romney (who I presume will be the nominee) gains the White House, he will quickly reveal that his anti-immigrant positions (and anti-free trade positions) were simply tactical.

For those still fantasizing about a Ron Paul nomination, can I have some of what you are smoking? 15-1? Are you kidding me?

Ari said...

Ron Paul has appeal to the left also because of his foreign policy. I think some estimates give him the highest chance against Obama if he gets nominated.

As a person with libertarian views, I'd like him to succeed. If not for anything else, then at least for world peace. Out of the candidates, he makes the most consistent points with libertarians by a far degree.

Some libertarians (a minority of voters) probably don't like him because either he is "too extreme" or maybe his Austrian leanings, either way, but to me he looks like a perfect candidate for anyone who consider himself libertarian, given the real candidates available.

In the end, there's probably a good chance he couldn't roll back much on state regulation or foreign policy but at least it would be a start.

chofland said...

An insighful Libertarian friend pointed out in the 1980s that the best Libertarians can hope for is a Dem executive and Rep Congress.
The Dem tends to be a check on the worst excesses in social legislation and nationalism. The Reps tend to not blow quite so much money.
In the aughts, the Reps showed they were quite good at blowing cash, but since then the Dems have shown they will not be outdone. I think the analysis stands -- particularly with the Tea Party in the mix.
Historically, the 1994-2000 period looks pretty good. I hope Obama gets a primary challenge that keeps the Dems in the running.
Should all of this be rendered moot by a Ron Paul or Gary Johnson victory, I will be very thankful... but I will also have to reconsider my atheism.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we should.

If Obama is reelected he'll bite America's nose to spite its face. Having been freed of running for reelection, he'll go Full Metal Statist - allow the bureaucracy to implement his agenda while demonizing Republicans 24/7.

Simply put, he's toxic. The divided government paradigm may apply in quieter times, but we're within a second of getting choked out here.

Allan Walstad said...

Generally I prefer divided government, because the less the pols "accomplish" the safer our wallets and rights are. The ideal would be an R Senate and Pres because of the Supreme Court implications. The main downside of that configuration would normally be the warmongering propensities of the neocons, but Obama has morphed into Bush for all practical purposes on that score. And Obamacare (which we got due to one-party domination)must go. It strains credulity to think that Paul or Johnson might get the nod, but they are serving an important purpose simply by being in the race.

jdgalt said...

I would make a similar case in favor of a divided Tea Party, and possibly a divided Republican Party.

Reason magazine just published a
survey showing that the movement known as the Tea Party is really split, more or less 50/50, into libertarians and social conservatives.

In the long run, it seems to me, this alliance (if it lasts) will serve libertarians, since social conservatism (especially on the issues of gay rights and abortion) is a pretty thoroughly lost cause, and even many conservative groups have accepted the fact. But in the short run it may hurt us, because the social conservatives will tend (or be easily led) to support the efforts of the GOP's leadership to continue to run mostly big-government, social-conservative candidates: people like Huckabee, Romney, and Perry.

My hope is that the libertarians in the movement will mostly refuse to vote for another big-government Republican nominee, thus leaving the Republican Party with a choice between continuing to lose and nominating small-government people like Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. If this results in the Democrats winning more terms in power, that's fine with me -- because the worst thing that could happen, in my view, would be for someone like Mitt Romney, who will spend as much as Obama but has an "R" label, to be the next President. If that happens then there is no point in the Republican party existing, since the Democrats do a better job of that than the GOP anyway (and deserve the blame).

The prospect of a Republican Congress and a Democrat President is all the more reason to stand firm and refuse any support to the GOP unless the GOP nominates a small government candidate.

Anonymous said...

We should hope and pray for a Republican sweep, because nothing less than that -- along with a clear electoral mandate -- will likely lead to the repeal and repudiation of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and, perhaps more critically, the recent expansion of the purely regulatory state. By the latter I mean the use of un-elected, un-confirmed (often recess-appointed) cabinet-level officials and Presidential edicts to implement policy changes which have often been in direct opposition to the expressed will of Congress and the courts.

The last few years have been a rather painful exposition of the weaknesses in our constitutional system: despite the existence of basic laws designed to define how our government works, it turns out we've been heavily reliant on our unwritten laws -- traditions -- which clever and ambitious politicians have been all too efficiently identifying and overthrowing. If we are ever to recover, we need to change the culture. I don't know how to do that. But putting in people who are reflexively conservative -- who will look with suspicion on innovative new uses of centuries-old law, and who may willingly compromise their own power to uphold tradition forms -- will be a good first step.

Anonymous said...

Allan Walstad said: Generally I prefer divided government, because the less the pols "accomplish" the safer our wallets and rights are.

But it seems to me that the current situation is an exception: the last few years have seen laws passed which are not yet fully implemented but which are intended to vastly expand federal power and reach. If we have a divided government after 2012 these will fully kick in and become very hard to repeal. Only a full Republican sweep looks likely to be enough to fix this.

ErisGuy said...

Even if the Republicans won 100% of the House and Senate and won the presidency, all of the Democrat party, all the media, all the academics will be against them.

And in these 80 years, the Republicans have never lifted one finger to reverse these trends. Not when they held the House and Senate and presidency (Reagan promised to abolish the Department of Education--it's still here). Not when they held the House and the danger was manifest, that is: now (the House has continued to vote funds for Obamacare, endless wars, and every bureaucracy).

Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush and yet every plan held the Democrat party continues to come to fruition. Are you sure these men are the Democrat's opposition?

veganarchonomics said...

I remember reading somewhere:
Anti-Obama Rhetoric + Obama's Policies = the GOP

I am a libertarian but not a big fan of Ron Paul (he is against a womans right to choose and is at least as anti-immigrant as the rest of the GOP). Having said that I would probably prefer him as president to Obama or any of the other Republicans, though that is not saying much. I do not imagine the difference between Romney and Obama are significant enough to really matter. They are both hawkish on foreign policy, supportive of the regulatory and welfare apparatus, and fairly centrist on social legislation. I would prefer Obama to either Perry or Bachman since they are just radically socially conservative versions of Obama.

As for repealing ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, etc., I do not think there is much hope for that either way, once legislation is enacted its various beneficiaries go about building up massive institutional resistance. There might be hope in the long run (the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with gradual encroachment of ideas -Keynes) but on the time horizon of the next election they are more or less here to stay. That is not to say a Republican congress and White House could not "repeal" ObamaCare by making some corporatist cosmetic changes to it.