Drumming Brooks: Here’s the bad news!


What Brooks said isn’t quite wrong: In 1948, Harry Truman ran for re-election against “the do-nothing Congress.”

In 2012, Barack Obama didn’t run for re-election against the obstructionist Congress.

This may reflect a difference in temperament. But here’s the other problem: If Obama told the truth about Congress, it might go somewthing like his:

Re-elect me and we’ll get nothing done! Elect Mitt Romney to the White House and he has a good solid chance!

Last night, Kevin Drum slammed David Brooks for voicing that italicized outlook. Here’s the problem: The outlook Brooks expresses today isn’t exactly wrong.

Brooks envisions a re-elected Obama stymied by the same old obstructions. (He describes Obama's agenda as "moderate and sensible.") On the other hand, he envisions a President Romney managing to get things done through the help of centrist Democrats.

He doesn't explicitly say that. But that's how it would have to proceed.

Here’s the bad news: Unless Obama uses the fiscal cliff to give himself all-new-and-improved leverage against congressional Republicans, the picture Brooks paints isn't exactly wrong. This has always been the downside to running against the obstructionist Congress.

For ourselves, we would have liked to see someone tell the public, in a big fulsome way, that they actually have an obstructionist Congress—that their Congress has been actively trying to undermine economic recovery. But that would require a political discourse light-years beyond the one we actually have.

Drum is right about what Brooks said. Unfortunately, barring a new approach, Brooks is probably right about the workings of Congress. Here's where we're afraid Brooks is wrong, and perhaps being disingenuous:

Brooks pictures Romney shape-shifting his way to the center-right. There is no reason to assume he would do that.

We'll guess he could probably succeed working from the plain old right. We'll guess that Brooks could picture that too if he'd just give himself the chance.

Rural rules, or the way the Senate works: In part, this reflects the way the Senate favors the GOP, given our current political alignments. There are very few blue-state Republicans in the Senate, but quite a few red-state Democrats. That’s because every state gets the same two votes in the Senate—and at present, the smaller rural states tend to be conservative.

Little Wyoming gets two votes. So does big liberal California. If you can’t elect Democrats from the red states, you can’t elect enough Democrats to compete in the Senate at all.

In 2000, Gore narrowly won the nationwide popular vote—but he only won 20 states in the process (or 21, if you count Florida). As our nation aligns at present, Senate logic strongly favors the GOP.


  1. Assuming your thesis has some basis in fact and isn't just wishful thinking, it would be better for the country for Obama to deal with what he has been dealing with since 2008 rather than for Romney to have a chance to succeed in advancing the "Republican" agenda - whatever that is on any given day.

  2. It would surprise many how many of us are voting Romney and (moderate to conservative) Democrats down ticket.

  3. As Bob points out, small states have a disproportionate number of Senators, relative to their population. The same is true of Presidential electors, although to a lesser degree. The Republicans tend to do better in small states. Dems generally do better in large states. As a result, it's easier for a Republican to win the electoral vote while losing the popular vote than vice versa.

  4. I said something similar to this a few years ago, that Romney is more likely to get some stimulus through than Obama, because of Republican obstructionism. For awhile, I toyed with the idea of supporting Romney: the economy trumps all in my view. Then I saw him campaign. After watching him campaign, and seeing how nakedly insane the Republicans have become, I now think Obama doing nothing is an improvement over Romney doing something, including, even especially, on the economy. I dislike Obama, who's a compromised punk, but Romney, with his Randian sidekook Ryan, is too dangerous. Obama will do nothing, but his re-election basically buys us four years; that's four more years where some more of the Republcian base can die off, where the country can turn a little browner, and thus more liberal, four more years for a truly progressive movement to emerge as a counter to right wing extremism. It's a faint hope I admit, but it's the only hope out there. Think of all the hope that was out there four years ago. Did I mention that Obama is a compromised punk?

  5. It's a good argument for secession. Why lash yourselves to the rednecks and suffer their conservative politics?

  6. Or 22 states if you count New Hampshire.

    Of course Bush won New Hampshire, giving him the electoral college victory. But in New Hampshire Gore + Nader > Bush.

    Of course your essay begs the question. Which is better - doing nothing or gouging my eyes out? Doing nothing, or burning down my house? Doing nothing, or slashing my wrists and then jumping into shark infested waters?

    Sure Romney will be able to do more things than Obama, but maybe it matters whether the things he does are good, or whether he does the things he has been promising to do, which are very, very bad.

    Doing nothing is hardly the worst possible option.

    1. And reading Brooks' rather silly column, it seems that a third Mitt will emerge after inauguration day. Not the Severely Conservative Mitt that promised to dismantle FEMA, and repeal Obamacare on his first day in office. Not Moderate Mitt who says the path to prosperity is even more tax cuts for the wealthy. But a new Center-Left Mitt who will align with Democrats in Congress while Republicans dare not oppose him.

      Brooks even said on Morning Joe that it is likely that a Romney Administration would actually increase federal income tax rates on the wealthy -- something that an Obama Administration could never get passed.

      Jaw-droppingly stupid and naive.

  7. Why would you count Florida? As I recall there was an offical count and at least 2 official recounts, using different rules. Bush won all of these counts and recounts. Gore requested another recount on yet a different basis, but that recount was turned down by the Supreme Court. However, a media consortium later did a recount on the basis that Gore had requested. They found that Bush probably would have won a recount on that basis, too.

    1. last sentence is not merely false, but actually inverts reality: Gore won any legit recount. that's what the consortium found.

  8. I say, elect Obama, so he can stop what the Republican will do against the country!

  9. Bob, way back when, you linked to a 2000 county-by-county election results map the right-wing was using to show that Bush really won in a landslide. A huge swath of the nation was painted red.

    You correctly pointed out then the difference between land and people. Of course, Bush won in lots of territory where few people lived, you said, but that wasn't the same as winning the votes of people.

    Now, winning in Montana and Wyoming is the same as winning in California and New York? Oh my!

    As Drum correctly points out, electing Romney on the basis that Republicans in Congress will never work with Obama is to reward obstructionism. Is that the road we want to follow?

    1. ?? As Bob correctly points out, in the Senate, land is effectively people. Each state gets two Senators by dint of its existence, and regardless of population.

  10. Coastal ant heaps full of zombies should not determine the rate of all that land either.

    1. I suppose that somehow makes sense to you.

    2. The fate of all that land

      Auto spellcheck changed it to rate.

      Anyway, why should cities full of poor useless mouths decide the fate of the rest of the country? I know your propaganda filled brain cannot process this view but, city dwellers endanger the properties classes that are stewards of the land.

      LA NYC Baltimore Detroit etc are ant heaps. Many are filled with dangerous zombie-like denizens.

    3. Dan,

      "Anyway, why should cities full of poor useless mouths decide the fate of the rest of the country? I know your propaganda filled brain cannot process this view but, city dwellers endanger the properties (sic) classes that are stewards of the land."

      Ayn Rand couldn't have said it better.

      Except she might have called true humans the "propertied classes."

    4. It's a discussion board not an edited journal. Thank you for your concern about my typos.

      Yes Propertied Classes.

      The cities are filled with predatory zombies.

  11. "Auto spellcheck changed it to rate."

    Rest easy, it made no difference.

  12. I think acceptance of current GOP intransigence has been largely dependent on the state of the economy. As that condition inevitably improves over the near term, the GOP will find sustaining its extremity will exact an ever steeper price.

  13. We cannot under any circumstances reward the dangerous obstructionism of the Republican Party with the Presidency or continued control or veto power in the Congress. They have proved to be irresponsible and to reward that would be to finally break our system of government, we will have invited them to always play for all the marbles no matter the consequences to the Republic or the people. And if rewarded for this bad behavior we will no doubt see more of it.

    We cannot under any circumstances allow someone as malleable as Mitt Romney to become President, especially with the support of those who now "support", but will later dominate, this candidate.

    And we cannot, if we wish to face our children to teach them honesty, support his campaign against not only Obama, but simple truth itself.

    These are CONSERVATIVE values... What does Mitt Romney stand for?

    Re-Elect the President, return a Democratic Congress, send the Tea Party home...

    Time to Sweep Up... The party's over... 58 Senate Democrats on Wednesday morning, pickin' up 31 House seats... End the charade.

    Do not reward the billionaires who have spent hundreds of millions to deceive you, show them the waste of their money! The soul of America is not for sale, our Republic was created by and for the people, and derives its just powers only through the consent of the governed

    We do not require the consent of the corporations or the 1%, quite the contrary...

    RG Johnson
    San Jose CA

    PS: Nice to see you still out there, Bob... I first came across your stuff while I still goin' "Huh?" on or about 12/12/2000... Well, that was another world, wasn't it... And I picked up a theme at that time that I believe I owe to you, though I do find ways of expression that that are perhaps less hard edged than your own. It essentially boils down to critical thinking, a dusty old classic, Logic... Which is a skill, not a talent. A procedure with a known structure, not intuition, not genius, and thus is something which can be taught. In fact, it was taught, for centuries, as it has come to us from the Greeks, much informed but little improved.

    Perhaps if we start with today's High School Sophomores... As the wise man said, Lincoln I think, the philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow. Ah, but to plan tomorrow one must save today... See ya'll on Tuesday, eh?
    RG Johnson
    Ramrod at the Cosmic Cowboy Ranch