Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Opposition

I read lefty blogs for my intellectual health. Not HuffPo mind you, but comparatively reasonable liberal writers. This morning "publius" at Obsidian Wings had an interesting comment on the GOP in opposition with regard to the stimulus.
The House GOP is playing a long-term game. In the spirit of parliamentary opposition, they're looking ahead to the next election. What the public thinks now is not necessarily relevant to what the public will think 18 months from now. They've gone all in but haven't seen the flop yet. It's important for Obama, then, to do all he can to make sure the policy works as best it can -- and fraud or waste needs to be met with swift Old Testament-style vengeance. Because if the stimulus doesn't work, the GOP is going to be able to draw a very clear contrast on the issue.
He later goes on to mention how the Democrats have not historically been this good in opposition. I agree, but I'd argue he's missing his own point. The GOP's opposition to the stimulus is not just playing politics for the next election; it is also shaping Democratic policy for the better. Here's the key: "It's important for Obama, then, to do all he can to make sure the policy works". Whatever your position on it, nobody is even trying to argue that the stimulus bill is a lean, targeted affair. By reminding overreaching Democrats that they'll be waiting in the wings if the thing fails, congressional Republicans have given them a very powerful incentive to make it succeed. A functional opposition, even if it doesn't have the votes to change a single outcome, still has an invaluable role to play.

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