M.D. Harmon: Progressives In Cold Sweat Over Potential Obama Loss


People who write about politics often assume an aura of certainty about future events that they wouldn’t be claiming if they knew what was good for them. However, because those of us who write about politics seldom, if ever, know what’s good for us, we continue to pretend we have prognostic skills denied to ordinary mortals.

But since we don’t know what is going to happen in this fall’s national election (and if we did, we wouldn’t be sitting here writing, we’d be mortgaging Chez Harmon to bet with anyone willing to go the other way), we have to couch things in more conditional terms.

Or we can let other people take all the risks. Within the past week, I read a pair of pieces couched in what might be called the “apocalyptic warning” predictive style, otherwise known as “Ohmygawdwearealldoomed.”

One group of writers, collected in the January/February issue of the liberal Washington Monthly, sees disaster coming in various forms if President Obama is not reelected. The other, writing in the conservative City Journal on Jan. 6, sees “The New Authoritarianism” looming if he wins a second term.

What’s fun about stuff like this is that Obama partisans would cheer the City Journal’s doom-saying if it came to pass, while his critics read the WM collection as an emotional picker-upper that can brighten a gloomy day.

This week, let’s hit hard left rudder and find out what’s worrying the tender spirits at the Monthly under the teasing title, “What If Obama Loses?”

First up, we have Dave Weigel, who reports on politics and public policy for Slate, another online progressive journal. He expressed concern that the Tea Party isn’t as dead as his fellow progressives keep saying it is.

The reason you haven’t been seeing many new ideas for reform from Tea Party leaders and activists isn’t because they’ve gone away, he says, but because “The Tea Party wants deconstruction, not some 1994-style Republican agenda, all marginal revisions and government reform … The goal of government, come 2013, should be to erase what the government has been doing. The only new government function that’s gotten a hearing in the movement is a ‘reverse appropriations committee,’ an idea that (Sen.) Rand Paul and others took from the 1980s, which would assign senators to find spending to cut. The movement’s ideal budget reform: zero-based budgeting. If that were enacted, every year’s appropriation process would start with no funding for any discretionary program.”

OK, there’s something worthwhile. Since the real fiscal problem the nation faces is that the progressives in power have been writing checks for trillions of dollars that they expect us to cash, a formal structure for cutting back spending would be an excellent idea.

Then, in examining Congress, two moderate policy analysts, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, see the end of a cherished Senate institution next year. They say the filibuster will die so that vital GOP priorities can live: “If (presumed 2013 Senate majority leader Mitch) McConnell can find fifty votes to pass through a bill that fundamentally alters the policy landscape, eviscerating or erasing health reform and financial regulation and changing Social Security and Medicare, and confirming a slew of forty-something conservative judges who will be on the bench for decades, there is a better-than-even chance that he would succumb to temptation and erase the filibuster rule by fiat.”

Next, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick breaks out into a cold sweat at the thought of a Republican president’s court nominees for a very revealing reason: “If you care about the future of abortion rights, stem cell research, worker protections, the death penalty, environmental regulation, torture, presidential power, warrantless surveillance, or any number of other issues, it’s worth recalling that the last stop on the answer to each of those matters will probably be before someone in a black robe.”

That, of course, is exactly what conservatives think is wrong with the courts — they have assumed too much power to decide issues that belong in the hands of the people and their representatives (and the judges did it on no one’s authority but their own, as Newt Gingrich recently pointed out).

That the Democrats rely so much on the courts to squelch the people’s will and advance left-wing policy goals shows what leftists really think about the popularity of their priorities among average Americans: They hate them.

In addition, other writers see a Republican president and Congress bringing bureaucratic regulations (particularly environmental rules) under direct congressional control, with the chief result being “ending the Environmental Protection Agency as we know it.”

That is, the GOP would return the EPA’s focus to rational environmental protection and not its current anti-growth agenda. The horror just doesn’t quit for these folks, does it?

Our defense and foreign policy would eschew Obamaesque weakness and misplaced priorities because Republicans believe “the world is more dangerous than Obama thinks (and) they would conduct America’s policy in a way that might make this a self-fulfilling prophecy” (that is, they would reward our friends and stand up to our enemies).

Finally, financial regulation would be trimmed back to the bad old days of 2008. And as for Obamacare, “It’s toast.”

That’s because, says Harold Pollack, a “social service” professor at the University of Chicago, the GOP will not send its “repeal and replace” health care alternative to the floor for a vote that could be filibustered, but instead, as the Democrats did before them, they will use the “reconciliation process” (which only requires a simply majority) to do in Obamacare just like the MacBeths sliced and diced Scotland’s King Duncan in Shakespeare’s play.

By the pricking of my thumbs, that’s the kind of doom-saying we can really get behind.

NEXT WEEK: What happens to freedom if Obama is reelected?

M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist and freelance writer. He can be contacted at: