Pethokoukis, Politics and Public Opinion

Could the GOP really win by losing? Maybe not

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Not a big fan of the “win by losing” argument. Better to control your own destiny rather than hoping the incompetence of others translates into opportunity for you. But RCP’s Sean Trende does make a strong case for why a Romney loss might be a blessing in disguise for Republicans:

All in all, Democrats would have been much better off if Grover Cleveland hadn’t overseen the Panic of 1893. If Charles Evans Hughes is the one who has to deal with settling World War I and its aftereffects, James Cox probably wins in a landslide in 1920. If Gerald Ford wins in 1976, 1980 is likely an ugly year for Republicans, and Ronald Reagan is never president.

This year in particular strikes me as one where the winning side should be careful what it wishes for, especially if it takes full control of all three branches of government. There’s a very good chance that the next four years will be every bit as rocky as the last four, if not more so. …

Maybe Obamacare will work as advertised. Maybe we can attack a gigantic Middle Eastern nation without any major problems. Maybe the Fed can unwind massive quantitative easing smoothly. Maybe our economy will surge as a result of additional stimulus and/or supply-side tax cuts, and the debt will take care of itself.

Maybe. But if things don’t turn out for the best here, I sure wouldn’t want to be the one governing. Sometimes you really do win by losing.

Here is the other side of that trade. Americans are pretty gloomy right now. Three years into a recovery, most people still think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Indeed, a recent analysis by Citigroup concluded a permanent acceptance of the New Normal may have set in. In light of that, beating expectations might not be too high a hurdle for a second Obama term.

And what if, for example, the current CBO forecast is correct:


Now keep in mind, this forecast assumes we go over the fiscal cliff. Yet even so, unemployment would be creeping back toward 6% by Election Day 2016, and GDP growth would be hovering just under 5% for back-to-back years. And if you assume at least part of the fiscal cliff — and recession — is avoided, the final numbers might not be a whole lot different in 2016, but the ride getting there might be smoother.

And what if the Fed’s new open-ended bond buying program really is able to boost growth and job creation? Voters would certainly be tempted to give Obamanomics credit for the modest acceleration in the recovery. He would become the Recovery President — even if that recovery were mostly due to the economy’s natural recuperative powers and House Republicans keeping any more bad stuff from happening.

A just-enough improved economy plus New Normal expectations might be enough to make Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or Andrew Cuomo the 45th president of the United States. Obamacare forever. Plus four more years in which neither entitlements nor the tax code would get the pro-market reforms they desperately need.

See you in 2020.

9 thoughts on “Could the GOP really win by losing? Maybe not

  1. The Democrats may be thinking the same thing about 2008 (and may even have been thinking it at the time). It is not at all clear that a President McCain could have achieved an appreciably better result for the economy. If he were running for re-election this year under these conditions, the Democratic landslide would have been even bigger than it was in 2008.

  2. The Dems will keep winning from hereonout.
    It’s the California syndrome.

    Once, that state was solid red and voted Reagan time and time again.

    Then Demographics changed and the Dems got permanent control and the Republicans turned into eternal piñatas to bash.

    Republicans are so often called racist so they like to avoid the topic alltogether, but it can’t be avoided because it’s there.

    Also, post-Recession, most minorities(sans Asians, who are mostly living in solid blue states to begin with anyway) have seen a truly horrifying gutting of their wealth.

    In 2010, black median net wealth was 20 times(yes, 20!) lower than it’s white equivalent. White net median wealth(defined as all assets minus all debts/liabilities) had declined from a top of $150 k to about $97 k. That’s a steep fall.

    But black median net wealth had fallen from $10 k to $5 k.

    Hispanic median net wealth was even smaller than median black wealth(at $3 k).

    So almost 40 % of the country have communities where the average member is living like a serf.

    In addition to that, white college women, a group Republicans used to win hands down, have now become alienated after repeated Republican swings to the social extremists in the South.

    But even winning back that vote won’t matter.

    The GOP now needs 61 % of the white vote. This is unheard of.

    Next election it will need 63 %, then 65 % etc.

    It won’t win.

    And do you think Hispanics will vote for Republicans en masse? Economics always trumps culture.

    Even if the GOP adopted a far-left stance on immigration, what are you going to do about welfare, housing, food stamps?

    The GOP platform works for an upwards mobile middle class or a group of people who come from a tradition of self-reliance.

    It’s not even a race issue(see most of Europe for example). It’s a cultural issue and it’s concentrated among America’s white population.

    Republicans want to deny this all day long and delude themselves otherwise but it ain’t so.

    Texas is soon a purple state, as Obama recently stated. And after that, it will become blue.

    And with it, the final nail in the coffin from the GOP.

  3. This is our last chance. If we lose and cannot show the benefits of free market economics, then we will have lost. Those who endorse big government will prevail for decades. Demographics are in their favor. IMO, the rigidity of conservative ideology is going to lose this election. They can take pride in their unyielding principals while watching our nation go down a no-return path towards socialism.

    • Get off it. The “Free market” (as if it were ever truly “free”) will be as unfettered as it ever was, although with a few extra guard rails on the parts of the road that have cliffs.

      People are out there doing what they dream to do, and they take the jobs that they can to support themselves, and they do it every day, regardless. That’s what made Romney’s narrative so repugnant- it displayed an utter contempt- and a lack of the understanding of the real world, supplied by people whose only experience of the world is to bang out the swill you see here in front of a computer terminal. They know nothing of “free markets.” Because a chart doesn’t tell you how people actually act.

  4. Obamacare forever. Plus four more years in which neither entitlements nor the tax code would get the pro-market reforms they desperately need.

    And you think a Romney win is going to fix either of these problems? In which alternate reality?

    Nobody’s going to kill ObamaCare now. Time and again, the GOP has turned away (in fear!) from the very moral arguments that could have brought it down.

    If the GOP ever learns to a) drop the social conservative agenda and b) go back and re-learn everything it’s forgotten about economic ethics, it might have a chance. Until then, Romney is the best we get — and how long do we really have to keep pretending he’s any good?

    Obama is rotten, but the Right is not offering a good alternative.

  5. Mr. Pethokoukis is now preparing the ground for an inevitable Romney loss (and a possible rout in the legislative races) by setting up his future narrative NOW.

    Watch this, folks.

    “Voters would certainly be tempted to give Obamanomics credit for the modest acceleration in the recovery. He would become the Recovery President — even if that recovery were mostly due to the economy’s natural recuperative powers and House Republicans keeping any more bad stuff from happening.”



    See that folks? There are times when genuine policy matters, and if those policies actually WORK, and they’re done by someone you won’t vote for, all you need do is assign them to “naturally recuperative powers.”

    Mr. Pethokoukis is now under the impression a more homeopathic approach to our economic dilemma should do the trick. Certainly it’s NOTHING the Fed or the mass of electroshock therapy we’ve thrown at the problem will do anything right?

    Just wait- under a second term, the economy WILL improve, taxes WILL be higher, and Mr. Pethokoukis will credit Obama for NOTHING.

    But the Lie Machine rolls on, and the goose steppers repeat on cue:

    Clinton COULD raise taxes! He had the internet!
    (Tech job accounted for only 8% of all job growth in the 90s.)

    Obama should have allowed Keystone! He’s trying to push into stupid alternatives that don’t work! Nyah!
    (None of the oil from the Keystone pipeline is designated for US consumption and gasoline is now one of America’s biggest exports)

    Keystone would have given us 20,000 jobs!
    (More like 5000, but if the American Petroleum Institute, who was buying Congress to pass it says, by all means, buy into it)

    Bush HAD to cut taxes! He had a recession to deal with!
    (It was the shallowest recession of the post war era.)

    You can’t legislate the business cycle!
    (So why are you cutting taxes to attempt to?)

    This is the worst recovery of the Post War era!
    (Its the worst recession of the post war era- essentially a controlled demolition version of 1929- thanks to Paulson, TARP, and other desperate measures)

    We’ve had years of an unemployment rate of 8%!!
    (yeah, kind of tough bailing out of an 11 million strong job loss without much of a manufacturing base left)

    Clinton caused the housing crisis!
    (No he didn’t- read a book, and stop listening to paid hacks like Wallison and Pinto.)

    You get the idea. Its sing along with the AEI!

    • A couple of thoughts on your screed. The recession during the Carter years was certainly as bad as the one at the end of the Bush years. The recovery was quite a bit better.

      Clinton also had the benefit of the recent end of the Cold War and a peace dividend as well as a large demographic hitting their peak earning years.

      A couple of thoughts from other thinkers on the matter under consideration: “Higher taxes never reduce the deficit. Governments spend whatever they take in and then whatever they can get away with.” – Milton Friedman
      “The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition … is frequently powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things toward improvement, in spite of the extravagance of government, and of the greatest errors of administration.”
      – Adam Smith

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