We keep hearing — from pundits, and Republicans and Democrats alike — that last week’s electoral outcome shows that “the American people” just want the parties to work together and make government function again.
But this isn’t quite right. Yes, a lot of Americans want more generic “compromise.” Democrats and independents want compromise. But Republican voters in particular don’t want compromise.
A new Allstate/National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll finds that surprisingly few Americans who identify with either party think unified government under their own party would make their lives better. Instead, a majority of Americans thinks they would benefit more from “Democrats and Republicans compromising more to solve problems in Washington.”
But look at the breakdown, provided by Ron Brownstein:
The belief that more cooperation could produce greater benefits united groups that often diverge on political questions, including 53 percent of whites, 58 percent of non-whites, 66 percent of Democrats, and 53 percent of independents. The big exception: just 42 percent of Republican partisans said they thought they would benefit much from more compromise — a reflection both of the resistance to Obama and the demands for ideological purity among many GOP activists.
This also popped up in a recent Pew poll. It found sizable majorities of Americans think Republicans should try to work with President Obama and that Obama should work with them. But here again, there’s a stark partisan difference. 52 percent of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents think Obama should find common ground with Republicans, even if it disappoints them. But only 32 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say the same on their side, while 66 percent of Republicans say their leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.
There’s an ideological imbalance here, too. Pew found that by 57-39, Republicans say their leaders should move in a more conservative, rather than a more moderate, direction. But Democrats say by 52-41 that their leaders should move in a more moderate, rather than more liberal, direction.
It’s true that “bipartisan compromise” as a goal unto itself is often over-hyped as something the public supposedly wants. Still, this imbalance could have ramifications for the next two years as Congressional Democrats try to figure out the proper opposition posture to strike in the minority. As Brian Beutler explains, Democrats face
structural difficulties that make it harder for Democrats than Republicans to be a united, rejectionist opposition party. Their coalition includes many moderates; isn’t overwhelmed by ideological liberals; is in hock to big business; and, unlike Republicans, is invested in the idea that government should function well.
All the above polling suggests the same. And as Beutler notes, this could make it more likely that Democrats, particularly in the Senate, fracture when faced with Republican proposals. On things like the Keystone pipeline, tax reform that lowers rates but doesn’t produce any new revenue, or the inevitable GOP effort to roll back Obama’s coming executive action shielding millions from deportation, you could see some Democrats peeling off and voting with Republicans. All of which means the presidential veto may become more and more important in guarding liberal priorities.
* OBAMA REASSERTS HIS RELEVANCE: Peter Baker looks at three big decisions (a climate deal with China; embracing Net Neutrality; and executive action on deportations) and concludes the White House is moving quickly to reassert Obama’s relevance after the electoral debacle:
Aides said Mr. Obama has concluded that he cannot let opposition from the other party stop him from advancing his priorities, and in his post-election comments, Mr. Obama predicted he would take actions that Republicans would not like. While White House advisers interpreted the election results as a mandate to work across the aisle, they said that cannot simply be a prescription for more gridlock where the president does nothing without Republican approval.
Also see John Cassidy on how Obama is defying the media script, which requires him to respond to the election results by humbling himself and “publicly acknowledging his grave character flaws.”
* REPUBLICANS DEBATE RESPONSE ON IMMIGRATION: National Review reports that some conservatives are privately floating the idea of funding only parts of the government, so they can still use funding in other areas to mount a stand against Obama’s executive deportation relief. Others want to fund the government long term (which conservatives would see as a “cave”), while John Boehner is “non-committal.”
The question: whether GOP leaders really want to go as far as conservatives do in staging government funding fights — which could result in a shutdown — in the quest for maximum deportations.
* NEVER MIND GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. LET’S SUE PRESIDENT! The Post reports that John Boehner is now considering adding Obama’s executive deportation relief to the lawsuit that House Republicans promised against the president last summer. However…
But the suit has wallowed ever since as GOP lawmakers have struggled to find a D.C. area law firm willing to take up their legal fight.
That would appear to complicate matters, wouldn’t it? Either way, conservatives who want government funding fights against deportations will likely dismiss this as another stunt.
* STEVE KING WARNS OF ‘CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS’: The always sober and even-tempered Steve King warns:
“Today, new details surfaced that the president plans to attempt amnesty as early as next Friday, sending us into a constitutional crisis…We cannot allow Barack Obama’s anticipated, unconstitutional act to be implemented, for if it is it will destroy the pillars of American exceptionalism. Come what may, we must always protect the Constitution.”
Well, of course a president who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism is going to do all he can to destroy the pillars of American exceptionalism. Duh!
* REID URGES OBAMA TO DELAY: Harry Reid supports Obama’s action on deportations, but wants him to wait for strategic reasons:
“The president has said he’s going to do the executive action — the question is when he can do it. It’s up to him,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I’d like to get the finances of this country out of the way before he does it.” Reid added that he has expressed his view to Obama, but ultimately “it’s up to him.”
The goal: To get Republicans to agree to fund the government for a year, so that if Obama acts, using government shutdown fights to roll it back is no longer an option. As best as I can determine, the White House has made no decision on timing.
* OBAMA WILL APPLY ENFORCEMENT DISCRETION: The New York Times editorial board explains why the President has the executive authority to “go big” in deferring the deportations of millions on his own:
The president cannot rewrite immigration law. But he does control the enforcement apparatus; no Republicans have complained about his using executive authority to deport more people more quickly than all his predecessors. Using his discretion to focus on deporting violent criminals, terrorists and other threats is not lawlessness. It is his job.
Many will say this constitutes “rewriting the law.” One hopes they will not treat this claim as so self-evidently true that it requires no argument to back it up. There is an argument to be made that this cannot reasonably be called “rewriting the law.”
* AND OPPONENTS OF CLIMATE ACTION HAVE A PROBLEM: Paul Krugman writes today that the U.S.-China deal to curb carbon emissions presents a small problem to those who oppose action at any costs: One of their chief excuses has evaporated.
Until now, those of us who argued that China could be induced to join an international climate agreement were speculating. Now we have the Chinese saying that they are, indeed, willing to deal — and the opponents of action have to claim that they don’t mean what they say. Needless to say, I don’t expect the usual suspects to concede that a major part of the anti-environmentalist argument has just collapsed. But it has. This was a good week for the planet.
They will find some other excuse. Indeed, if Obama is going to try to make climate a major part of his legacy, that will likely compel them to dig in against action harder.