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Andrew Sullivan posts an email from a reader arguing against the sometimes-popular counterfactual that Democrats would have happily obstructed McCain:


Ross Douthat apparently has a bad case of amnesia. We actually have empirical evidence on the question of whether congressional Dems would work with a GOP president to fix the economy. As the economy faltered in 2008, Bush asked the Democratically-controlled Congress to pass a number of economic measures. While Bush himself wasn't up for relection, Dems could have seen political hay in obstructing Bush, letting things tank, and then beat up on the GOP while doing nothing.

So what did the Dems do? In February of 2008, Congress passed a stimulus bill that included tax rebate checks - checks mailed with a prominent letter attributing them to President Bush, if I recall.

That measure passed with a majority of the Democrats supporting it, and a majority of Bush's own GOP *opposing* it! The same thing happened with the TARP bill in the fall of 2008; the Democrats were MORE supportive of Bush's emergency measures than the Republicans were. How can Ross possibly square that reality with a claim that just a few months later, in 2009, the Dems would have become utterly intransigent with John McCain replacing Bush?

Good point.  However, neither Andrew nor his reader seems to notice that this also provides evidence against the popular left-wing belief that the GOP is just hoping to bring the economy down so that Obama will lose, or reflexively opposing anything Obama says.

The GOP voted against TARP before there was any electoral benefit to doing so.  To coin a phrase, they were against stimulus before they were against it.  

This seems to signal that they were against these things because they thought that they were wrong, not because they thought that it was tactically useful to oppose it.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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