Now that we know that the election should come down to a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney we can speculate on what will happen after next January 20, 2013. If Obama is reelected it seems a safe prediction that he will continue on a moderate course. He will continue to frustrate those on the left at times, but he will be far more rational than the extremist policies now supported by most Republicans. Economic realities will further frustrate many on the left as the fiscal conservative side of Obama is likely to dominate, but if there are to be cuts to spending I would much rather that Barack Obama as opposed to any current Republican be influencing matters from the White House.
Mitt Romeny is a little more difficult to predict considering that on any given day he is likely to have taken any position on virtually any issue. Although he has campaigned as a liberal in Massachusetts, most likely he will at best be a moderate in office, and there is the very real risk he will feel obligated to prove that he is as “severely conservative” as he now says he is.
The outcome of a Romney presidency is likely to be influenced to a considerable degree by the type of Congress which is elected. If, as has often occurred in the post-war era, he is a Republican facing a Democratic Congress, it is possible that he might govern as a moderate, figuring that it is better to get something meaningful done rather than spending his time in gridlock. On the other hand, he might be so indebted to the far right, and fearful of a primary challenge, that he might push a far right wing agenda regardless of whether it could pass in Congress.
Should Romney win, for at least the first two years it is more likely that he would also bring in a Republican Congress with him. It would be difficult for the Democrats to hold enough seats to maintain control of the Senate considering that the Democrats are defending twenty-three seats while the Republicans are only defending ten in a year going the Republican’s way. The Republicans would also only need a tie to control the Senate should Romney win. The Democrats now have a real shot to take control of the House if everything goes their way in 2012, but this becomes a very long shot if we are facing a fall in which Romney is able to take the swing states which as of now are leaning Democratic.
Ezra Klein sees a scenario such as this leading to Romney becoming a transformational president–and not in a good way:
If Romney wins the election, it’s almost a sure bet that Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate. And that matters. Right now, the GOP’s agenda is the Ryan budget, and that’s entirely fiscal: It’s a premium support plan for Medicare, and tax cuts, and deep cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and other domestic programs. All that can be passed through budget reconciliation — which is to say, all that can be made immune to the filibuster.
I would take this a step further. A Romney victory could lead to a move to the far right even if Romneyy preferred more moderate policies. A model for a Romney presidency might be seen in Michigan, where moderates and many Democrats backed Rick Snyder. Snyder is a moderate who is certainly preferable to other GOP choices such as the extremely far right-wing Pete Hoekstra, who has not been on speaking terms with reality for several years. Many Democrats supported Snyder because it was clear that there would be a Republican landslide in 2010 and wanted the lesser evil.
Unfortunately, while we were spared four years of Pete Hoekstra as governor, which would certainly have left us in a far worse situation than we are now in, the GOP wave in 2010 brought in a far-right Republican-controlled legislature. Rick Snyder might prefer to concentrate on the economy and avoid controversial social issues, but the legislature does not feel the same. MLive showed how this has moved Snyder’s agenda to the right, despite his personal views:
Snyder has surprised some insiders by signing some bills that strayed from the economic agenda that he pledged to pursue, or perhaps leaned more to the right than the centrist governor tends to lean.
Snyder talked of staying clear of divisive social issues, but signed bills prohibiting public employers from extending domestic partner benefits.
He has said picking a fight with unions was not part of his agenda, but gave his approval to bills prohibiting school districts from collecting dues for unions.
Last week, Snyder added his signature to the bill repealing the law requiring most motorcycle riders to wear helmets – something Granholm rejected twice.
“Gov. Snyder can keep saying ‘This is not the agenda I want,’ but if he’s going to keep signing these bills it’s certainly the agenda he has,” said Doug Pratt, public affairs director for the Michigan Education Association.
“The governor says he’s a moderate guy, but when it comes to putting pen to paper it sure looks like he’s rubber stamping the extremist policies that he rejected as a candidate.”
Romney, like Synder, might prefer to campaign on economic issues, but he will not be able to avoid conservative social issues. Mitt Romney says we should leave contraception alone, but would anyone trust him to block Republican legislation which restricts it? Rick Snyder has two things between his legs which Mitt Romney lacks. There is little doubt that Romney would not be the political equivalent of a eunuch, showing no ability to stand up to the far right, regardless of how extreme. Democrats might have a better shot of blocking social as opposed to economic issues by filibustering in the Senate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Republicans rewrite the Senate rules to prevent this if they control both Houses of Congress and the White House.
This could lead to a situation where the far right wing of the Republican Party could push their extremist agenda on social as well as economic issues, with no way to block them. In Michigan, Rick Snyder has on occasion stood up to the far right, such as backing stem cell research at the University of Michigan despite Republican opposition. What chance is there that Romney has the cojones to do the same?