The Wages of Obstruction

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Via Chris Bowers this curious Gallup poll result on rising congressional approval -- a phenomenon driven almost entirely by Republicans. The partisan breakout on congressional approval here is crucial to understanding the low ratings the congress gets. Rather than a case of liberal overreach alienating people, the issue here is that for a Democrat-controlled institution, the congress is horribly unpopular with Democrats.

This turns out to be the wages of constant filibustering. When the Democrats were in the minority, every effort they made at blocking the GOP agenda was greeting with conservative efforts to psyche them out, often re-enforced by lazy centirsts in the press, all centered around the idea that there'd be some dire price to be paid for obstruction. American politics does not, in fact, appear to function this way. Minority party obstructionism, whether of the Clinton administration's initiatives in 1993, or the Pelosi/Reid leadership's initiative in 2007, actually seems to generate a sense that the majority has "failed" rather than a sense of outrage aimed at the minority.

This is why I'm skeptical that any of these big picture health care reforms can possibly pass. It's going to be very much in the interests of the Republican to block ay such proposals -- irrespective of their content -- and the rewards to wavering Democrats for abandoning the reform side will be large.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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