Monday, November 05, 2012

Look No Further

Slate and Reason have released the presidential preferences of staff and contributors, and in the latter case, "other people important to the libertarian universe of ideas."  

Slate political editor Dave Weigel has a particularly intriguing explanation of his view of the candidates:

I'm copping out. On about half of the issues that I care about, Barack Obama has been a massive improvement on George W. Bush. Drone warfare or lie-based land wars in the Middle East? U.S. attorneys running junk cases against "voter fraud," or the DOJ trying to expand the vote? Endorsing the Federal Marriage Amendment, or refusing to defend DOMA in court? I agreed with an economic stimulus in 2009, as did the forgetful Republicans, who just disagreed about what should go in it. But Obama's a mediocre executive who's never figured out how to overcome opposition in Congress. I think Romney could be a great executive. If we fell into some Greece-like receivership, and a coalition of bankers installed a dictator to manage our economy, Romney would be perfect. Give him a Democratic Congress and you'd bring out his best instincts. My problems: If you trust John Bolton and Dan Senor to speak for you, who are you going to fill the government with? If you agree to a Balanced Budget Amendment that would require a California-style supermajority to raise taxes, what other dumb fiscal decisions will you make?

So I'll vote for the Libertarian ticket, which I agree with on everything besides the scale and speed of spending cuts, and the first third-party team that actually seems competent enough to run a country. (Let's face it, Nader voters. Would you have trusted him to run anything larger than a make-your-own-salad franchise?) But I guess I'm pulling for a 269-269 electoral vote split, which would give us a chastened President Romney and let us keep the greatest vice president in history, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

It's hard to understand why anyone who recognizes the Balanced Budget Amendment as a "dumb fiscal decision" would vote for a libertarian like Johnson.   Equally intriguing, though, is his remark "But I guess I'm pulling for a 269-269 electoral vote split, which would give us a chastened President Romney and let us keep the greatest vice president in history, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr."

I hesitate to disagree with anyone who has a higher regard for Joe Biden than Barack Obama but it is hardly a sure bet that a 269-269 division in electoral votes would produce "a chastened President Romney and let us keep" Vice-President Biden.  While the new, undoubtedly Republican-controlled House undoubtedly would select Mitt Romney as the nation's 45th President, selection of the Democrat as v.p. by a Democratic-controlled Senate is far less certain.

In all likelihood, the Democratic Party will retain its "control" of the Senate.  But it is unlikely that it will improve on its 53-47 majority and there would be enormous pressure on Democrats (most center or center-right) from GOP-leaning states, such as Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia, to vote for Paul Ryan.   The temptation, which eventually persuaded Al Gore to concede the 2000 presidential race (when he actually garnered a plurality of votes in Florida), to succumb in the interests of a mythical "national unity" would be difficult to resist for Democrats eager to claim the mantle of bipartisanship for a re-election battle.

Obviously, the likelihood that there will be an even split in the Electoral College is fairly remote, though perhaps more likely with an apparent 270-268 Obama advantage (with a supreme effort by Republicans to flip an elector) than in an apparent 269-269 outcome.   Nearly as likely is the result that that such a split "would give us a chastened President Romney."   Right-wing Republicans, i.e., the Party majority, understand that they would need merely to whisper in Mitt Romney's ear two words:  "primary challenge."     George W. Bush hardly received a mandate in 2000- and we got deregulation, two new wars (including one completely unrelated to the threat of terrorism), and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to fight for those wars.

There is no need to wish for a "chastened" President Romney when we already have a chastened President Obama.     The lawyer, community activist, communicant of Jeremiah Wright's church, and the first black President in American history, in an interview shortly before the Des Moines Register endorsed Romney, assured the daily

Number four, I want to reduce our deficit. It’s got to be done in a balanced way. I’ve already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending. I’m willing to do more. I’m willing to cut more, and I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans when it comes to making some adjustments that bring down the cost of our health care programs, which obviously are the biggest drivers of our deficit....

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

Chastened? The man already has accepted a good chunk of the GOP wish-list and the election hasn't even concluded, much less negotiations begun.That's the same guy who in the first presidential debate stated "I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare, and then talk about Medicare, because that's the big driver of our deficits right now" and "So my approach is to say, how do we strengthen the system over the long term? And in Medicare, what we did was we said, we are going to have to bring down the costs if we're going to deal with our long-term deficits, but to do that, let's look where some of the money's going."   Not the unsustainable cost increases of health care (as, admittedly, he has at other times) but the mounting cost of the the more efficient Medicare.

Weigel (who will be voting for neither Romney nor Obama) and others hope that a President Romney is 'first-debate Romney' rather than 'primary campaign Romney.'  But in the incumbent, we have not only a centrist, pragmatic president but one who pledges to "walk Mitch McConnell's dog, wash John Boehner's car" if he is re-elected.

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