Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times: Obama Using Tactic Formerly Thought by Liberal Newspaper Editors to Be the Exclusive Province of the GOP: The Dreaded “Wedge Issue”

Filed under: 2012 Election,Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 2:36 pm

Everybody at the water cooler at the L.A. Times knows that so-called “wedge issues” are bad things — and that, as such, they have traditionally been used only by Republicans. Today, they are shocked to find Obama using similar tactics, in what hard-hitting editors apparently believe to be the first known instance of Democrats using “wedge issues” in the history of American politics:

Wedge issues may boost Obama’s prospects

Obama and Democrats appear to be using immigration and contraception to try to pry away voters from the other camp, similar to wedge issues that past Republican presidential candidates have employed.

Illegal immigration, affirmative action, gun control and same-sex marriage have all been used by Republicans as wedge issues at the state and national levels, with varied degrees of success. Now it’s Democrats and Obama — sympathizing with women paying more for dry cleaning, playing consoler in chief to a woman impugned by radio’s Rush Limbaugh — who are pushing people’s buttons.

The article explains that the issues in question are “immigration and contraception” and defines wedge issues as issues “grounded more in emotionalism than economics” that are “typically used to pry voters away from a party or a candidate they might otherwise be inclined to support.”

It’s nice that they’re noticing Democrats using wedge issues.

It’s laughable that they never noticed this before.

Does anyone here remember 2006, when Michael J. Fox had a commercial that touted stem cell research in a close Senate race in Missouri? The Democrat, Claire McCaskill, won the race. Although some argued that stem-cell research is not a true wedge issue and that it did not help McCaskill, there was plenty of research suggesting it worked. And in 2004 and 2006 Democrats pursued the issue with fervor, showing their belief it was an effective wedge issue. Fox also stumped in Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia — all states with close races — using the issue to motivate voters. Just as Republicans have been accused of placing gay marriage initiatives on the ballot to drive voter turnout, Democrats put stem-cell research issues on state ballots in California in 2004, and Missouri in 2006.

Stem-cell research is hardly the only Democrat wedge issue. Democrats have used a “personhood amendment” as a wedge issue in Nevada. They have used clean energy as a wedge issue. In fact, in 2010 the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a memo with a host of wedge issues the party planned to exploit, including minimum wage, Social Security, the grand debate over Obama’s birth certificate, and numerous others.

I always get a little annoyed whenever someone suggests that one party or another is uniquely susceptible to using a certain evil tactic. If you really believe that, you might double-check to see if partisanship is clouding your perceptions.

In this case, it most certainly is. Nowhere is this as blatantly obvious as at the end of article, which contains a nice little apologia for Obama’s use of wedge issues. It is a campaign plug for Obama so blatant that it had me scrolling back to the top of the article to see if I was actually reading an editorial or a “news analysis.” No such luck:

Wedge politics may seem a long way from the uplift of Obama’s 2008 hope-and-change campaign or, going back further, the message of healing and reconciliation that launched the young Illinois state senator’s political ascent with a galvanizing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

But Obama has often been underestimated, or misconstrued, by supporters and critics alike. Though he has ideals and principles, and the eloquence to give them flight, he understands one thing: To get things done, you have to win.

Sometimes, to get the right policies put in place, even good-guy Democrats might have to resort to tactics so evil they were once the exclusive province of the Republicans. It’s not that they want to do these things; it’s that their ideals and principles require it, for the good of the nation — and, dare I say it? the known universe.

So sayeth the über-objective journalists at the Los Angeles Times.

The Democrats are the problem (a second view).

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:53 am

[Posted by Karl]

Yesterday, I wrote about the claims from Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein that the GOP is ideologically extreme and scornful of compromise, noting that the Democrats are similarly afflicted with the problems they identified.  However, we need not simply analyze their claims on the basis of what is wrong with both parties.  We can also look at the affirmative record of the parties.

One of the biggest and most fundamental tasks of the federal government today is developing a budget.  There is consensus on this point.  Obama’s budget director has warned that our exploding public debt is “serious and ultimately unsustainable.”

Republicans have proposed a budget (largely the work of Rep. Paul Ryan) to address the debt bomb, and have taken considerable political flak for it, which will only increase in the general election campaign. 

The Obama administration’s position?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking on behalf of the Obama White House, to Rep. Paul Ryan: “You are right to say we’re not coming before you today to say ‘we have a definitive solution to that long term problem.’  What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

In the House of Representatives, Pres. Obama’s non-solution budget was unanimously defeated, 414-0.  The House Democrats’ budget, which relies on massive tax increases and gutting defense spending, while doing nothing about runaway entitlement spending, nevertheless fares only marginally better in reducing the debt/GDP ratio than Obama’s non-solution.  Neither the Obama budget or the House Dems’ budget comes close to either the Ryan plans or the bipartisan plans floating around the Beltway.

Speaking of which, people like Ornstein and Mann presumably favor some old school, center-left Grand Bargain along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson Commission recommendations.  Beltway establishmentarians pine for the days in which the GOP signed onto budget deals that hiked taxes in return for future spending cuts that never seem to materialize.

In the House, a version of the Bowles-Simpson plan attracted a grand total of 38 votes, suggesting House Republicans are not the only ones scornful of this Grand Bargain.  In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad from taking a vote on a version of this plan, even in committee.  Indeed, Senate Democrats, in violation of federal law, have failed to pass any budget for almost three years.

Democrats oppose the Republican budget approach for relying heavily on restraining government spending and avoiding massive tax increases.  However, a study of fiscal consolidations in 21 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development over 37 years concludes that failed attempts to close budget gaps relied 53% on tax increases and 47%, while successful consolidations averaged 85% spending cuts and 15% tax increases.  Moreover, the International Monetary Fund would suggest spending cuts and tax cuts as a “Plan B” for overextended countries.

As for Republicans being ideologically extreme, consider the polling coming out of the GOP presidential primary campaign.  Americans saw the ideology of the GOP candidates — including Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum — as closer to theirs than Barack Obama’s ideology.  Even among so-called independents, only Bachmann scored as more extreme than Obama, who holds the record for the most polarizing first, second and third years in office since Gallup started measuring polarization.  A majority of Americans (and independents) said Barack Obama’s political views are “too liberal,” a greater percentage than believed either of his main Republican challengers — Rick Santorum (38%) or Mitt Romney (33%) — is “too conservative.”  A majority of Americans (and independents) disagreed with Obama on the issues most important to them, while only a plurality disagreed with either Romney or Santorum.

Today’s post is much shorter than yesterday’s, because if you reread Ornstein and Mann, you will find none of this real-world context in their op-ed.  In order for them to condemn Republicans as “the problem,” they ignore the country’s biggest problems, save for a passing reference to our exploding public debt as, er, “fiscal pressures.”  They ignore the Democrats’ gross irresponsibility and dereliction in meeting the basic duties of governance, similarly burying their heads in the sand.  They ignore that the Democrats’ preferred approach to the debt — when forced to consider it — has tended to fail worldwide.  They denounce the GOP as ideologically extreme, public opinion data to the contrary.  No wonder they demand the media switch entirely to a propaganda machine for the Democratic Party.  Their reality-based community is a Potemkin village.


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