This election cycle precipitated a conversation about the virtues and vices of a divided federal government in both new and traditional media. In the last few days before the vote, the amplitude spiked. Much of the most recent attention is in the form of an attack from the left on the foundation of the divided government voting rationale. Recent entries include Ezra Klein (again and again), Matt Yglesias, New York Times, John Sides (and again), Paul Pierson at American Prospect and Anne Lowrey at Slate.
It almost looks coordinated. No matter. The reason is not hard to understand. The biggest erosion of Democratic support from ’08 to ’10 is from the independent, moderate, centrist, libertarianish vote. For the most part, these voters are not choosing to vote Republican in 2010 because they like the Republican candidates or because they suddenly have embraced GOP values. They are voting Republican to divide the government in the hope of reining in the Democratic agenda and restoring some semblance of fiscal rationality (either that or it is because the voters are stupid and gullible and Republicans tell better lies). The only surprise is that it has taken this long for Democrats to understand that their core problem is not apathy in the base. Their core problem is they have lost the center.
I don’t think this flurry is going to help short term, and in the longer term will be problematical for these scribblers. In two years they will all be making the argument for divided government. It won’t look good.
As a consistent advocate for a divided government voting heuristic, I am of the view that all publicity on this topic is good publicity. Over the four+ years I have been blogging about divided government, this election is the first time I have seen it discussed as if it is a conscious decision, rather than some inchoate, subconscious voter preference that mysteriously shows up periodically in the electoral results.
Here at the Donk we’ll feature just one attack from liberal darling Paul Krugman. This – an awe inspiring, world class hysterical hissy fit from the lofty platform afforded him by the New York Times:
“Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?.. This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness… The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap… So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Whoa. Somebody get that man a Prozac.
The Economist responds:
‘Mr Krugman’s attempt to raise the stakes fails utterly. He spends most of his column-inches noodling about the ways in which our imminent divided government will not resemble the one that reigned in the fondly-remembered Clintonian golden age. In his last paragraphs, Mr Krugman finally arrives at the only really pertinent question: How would the Democrats’ holding their House majority save us from the terrible fate he now foresees? Here’s what he says:
“Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.”
Mr Krugman implies that if Democrats continue to control the House, we’ll get the expensive “active policies” that will save us and avoid the expensive tax cuts that will prolong our woes. Of course, Democrats control the House now. This has not spared us Mr Krugman’s vein-popping fits over the current Democratic government’s disinclination to enact a second budget-busting stimulus.’
The money quote:
“It’s a little sad, isn’t it, when even our most eminent public intellectuals waste so much of their time, and ours, on baseless partisan freakouts?”
I think that pretty much sums it up. Except for what Nike Gardiner at the Telegraph had to say:
“Not only is Krugman’s article one of the most ridiculous pieces of scare-mongering in the history of modern American journalism, but it is the pathetic whimper of a decaying liberal Ancien Regime that is spectacularly crumbling. It also illustrates just how out of touch liberal elites are with public opinion, as well as economic reality. The tired old blame Bush line no longer works, and as a recent poll showed, the former president’s popularity is rising again.”
That first sentence above being the other money quote. That really says it all. Well, except for…
Krugman: The Only Think We Have is Fear Itself – Ed Driscoll
So what does it say when Krugman is sounding doomsday reports that the GOP winning Congress on Tuesday condemn America “to years of political chaos and economic weakness?” Let’s ask Krugman himself, circa 2000. In his essay “How to Be a Hack,” he sagely warned that it’s “still a good idea to tune out supposed experts whose minds are made up in advance.” I hope I’m not jumping the gun myself when I say that for once, Krugman’s advice sounds spot-on.
“Hey, wait, I thought it was Democrats who liked to say Republicans are trying to scare us. Now, it’s just Republicans are scary, and we hope you believe that they’re scary to everyone, and not just to Democrats.”
“But far be it from me or anyone else to suggest that Krugman’s off his rocker when he says a Republican House of Representatives portends disaster. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and Krugman’s gotta make terrible predictions. As we speak, he’s probably stroking his Nobel Prize and staring wistfully out the window — the leaves are pretty on Princeton’s campus this time of year — and contemplating the Xanadu we could have had if only we’d coughed up another trillion in stimulus. Let him indulge his fantasies. It’s better that way.”
To be fair, all the comments quoted in response to Krugman’s column are from right-of-center columnists and bloggers. OTOH, Google could not find anyone of note from the left trumpeting or even defending Krugman’s column.
Methinks even his liberal brethren are embarrassed about this particular Olbermannesque screed.
X-posted from “Divided We Stand United We Fall“