Broderism and Journalists as Pundits

by Brien Jackson

It’s not the worst thing that’s been written on the subject, but nevertheless, as you would expect, David Broder is worried about the stimulus. Not that it’s not enough to help a terrifingly fragile economy of course, but that Democrats aren’t doing enough to get Republicans to support the bill.

Beyond these policy challenges, there are political considerations that make it really important for Obama to take the time to negotiate for more than token Republican support in the Senate.

Nothing was more central to his victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington. He wants to be like Ronald Reagan, steering his first economic measures through a Democratic House in 1981, not Bill Clinton, passing his first budget in 1993 without a single Republican vote.

The first way leads to long-term success; the second foretells the early loss of control.

This vote will set a pattern for Obama, one way or the other. He needs a bipartisan majority because, tough as this issue is, harder ones await when he turns to energy, health care and entitlement reform.

This is silly on the face of it. On the one hand, I’d be remissed if I didn’t point out that Broder (a campaign journalist by trade) brings a column about the stimulus package back to politics. This is the problem with having journalists writing your Op-Eds; since everyone more or less writes about what they know, the discussions inevitably come back to horserace electoral framing. And on some level Broder’s point is correct, it would be politically advantageous for Democrats to secure a lot of Republican votes for the package, but all the same, readers of The Washington Post would be much better served if the Op-Ed editors had devoted the space to someone who was both an economist and had a flair for putting economic matters in terms most people can understand. Brad Delong and Dean Baker are both available, so far as I know.

But even addressing the substance of Broder’s writing, it’s still an incredibly lazy formulation. Democrats don’t need overwhelming Republican support to pass any of those things, they need a grand total of 2 Republican supporters in the Senate. And when Al Franken is seated they’ll need just one. To that end, there are 4 Northeastern Republicans in the Senate in states that Obama won (Snowe and Collins in Maine, Specter in Pennsylvania, and Gregg in New Hampshire), and two of them (Specter and Gregg) are up for re-election in 2010. Obama carried New Hampshire, a state where McCain was certainly a popular figure, by 9% this past year, and he won Pennsylvania, where McCain-Palin devoted nearly all of their resources over the last month of the campaign, by 11%. You don’t think Specter and Gregg are fairly eager to find ways to be perceived as cooperating with Obama for their own sakes?

Also, at one point in the column Broder cites the non-existant CBO report, at least a week after that talking point had been discredited. Why oh why…?

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