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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Losing by Winning

So the news is out that the President and congressional leaders have agreed to a deal to raise the debt ceiling, comprising entirely of spending cuts.  The Washington Post notes, correctly I think, that President Obama will probably gain politically from the fact that any deal was reached at all.  A default would very likely have harmed the economy greatly, making reelection more difficult, and the fact that Obama can now campaign as a deficit hawk and a centrist compromiser who gets deals done are both political winners.  On the opposite side of the ledger, the Tea Party may have done long term damage to its brand by becoming seen as extremist.  In this sense, the deal may in fact help the Democrats win more elections.  Sandy Levinson made this point at Balkinization some time ago.

But what is the point of winning elections if the other side is getting all its policy preferences satisfied?  Of course, one might say that at some point the Democrats are going to win so overwhelmingly that they get all three branches of government with a 60 vote majority in the Senate, and then they will just reverse course.  But (1) that is unlikely and (2) even if it happens, the terms of debate have shifted so much that we are unlikely to see much backtracking.  What we are witnessing is the continued shifting of the Overton window.  Democrats will keep winning elections by implementing policies that ten years ago would be considered fringe Republican positions, where we balance the budget by cutting taxes (the shutdown deal) and slashing spending even more (the debt ceiling deal).  Whether one likes or dislikes these developments, I think it is important to recognize this reality, lest we start hearing of how politically smart the deal was for Obama.

Posted by Tun-Jen Chiang on July 31, 2011 at 10:42 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"But what is the point of winning elections if the other side is getting all its policy preferences satisfied?"

This isn't happening. The other side as a whole, e.g., opposed ending DADT. It opposed the health law. If it was up to them, there would be lots more limits on abortion. Social Security would be privatized. One can go on. Even this deal put some limits on what can be touched, including certain entitlements.

The "Overton window" is shifting. DOMA is going to be revoked at some point. This will bring forth a yawn overall. In certain areas, I'm left to sounding like some grandfather who reminds the children of how things were back in the day. I'm not that old, but it seems that way sometimes when we are told the other side is getting everything.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 3, 2011 3:08:43 PM

Democrats will keep winning elections...

Yeah, just like they did in the 2010 midterms.

Posted by: anymouse | Aug 3, 2011 1:25:05 PM

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