Andrew Gelman analyzes voting preferences:
Those 10% or so of voters who plan to vote Republicaneven while thinking that the Democrats will do a better jobare not necessarily being so unreasonable. The Democrats control the presidency and both houses of Congress, and so it’s a completely reasonable stance to prefer them to the Republicans yet still think they’ve gone too far and need a check on their power.
I find the current GOP about as repellent as anyone. I can also believe, as I do, that the stimulus of the last two years was a sadly necessary measure to prevent the bottom falling out in ways no one could have controlled, once started. Now I want a focus on long-term debt reduction. Do I trust the GOP on the debt? Is the Pope gay? Do I trust the Dems? No. Do I think Obama is suited to forging a sane compromise out of the debt commission? Yes. Do I think the GOP can rise to the occasion? Probably not.
But in a strange way, the more anti-debt and anti-spending their rhetoric becomes and the plainer it is that serious defense and entitlement cuts are necessary for the problem to be solved, the more I'd like to see the GOP be deprived of their obstructionist no-responsibility posturing of the last two years. I'd like to see their bluff called on spending to escape the current impasse and get to a real debate rather than a phony one. If they win back the House, as it seems inevitable they will, they will have to offer something at last instead of criticizing everything in comically tired tropes and waiting for 2012, as the president is stymied from enacting the reformist change we elected him for.
So you throw some tea into the mix. The point is not that voters are somehow in an fit of pique backing a party whose policies they actually reject. It is that they want to break the logjam of one-party rule where the opposition party is strong enough to sabotage but denied the responsibility of actual government. And if the Republicans blow it like they did in 1996, Obama is revealed as the transformative pragmatist he has the potential to be - something now obscured by the FNC-RNC's risk-free inflammation. There is, after all, something quite disturbing about a political party as extremist as the current GOP both dominating the debate while bearing no responsibility for anything that actually gets done in the country or world.
And in a real debate between the GOP and Obama on the economy - like that memorable interaction with the Congressional Republicans over healthcare - Obama wins on most points, and where he loses, he deserves to. He is, in my view, at his best when he is directing conservatives toward logical reality, and guiding liberals toward what can actually be done. And a Republican victory might bring those very virtues to bear in ways so far prevented by conservative ideology and cynicism.
Well, it's a hope, anyway. Maybe a forlorn one - but I'm trying.
(Photo: Ishara Skodikara/AFP/Getty.)