We are now deep in the season of red vs. blue team politics and election strategy. I had hoped to join the tax extension policy fray but last Thursday Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that he would not bring a bill to the Senate floor until after the election, killing the issue for the next six weeks. Even if the House votes on a bill soon, that will be just for show. The real action will happen after the election, although we don’t know precisely when. I will therefore save my policy comments for later and instead describe my confusion about this season’s blue team political strategy and how it interacts with economic policy.
I usually analyze and try to describe how policy gets made, subject to political and election constraints. This close to an election, politics dominates everything, so I’ll look at partisan election strategies and how policy influences it.
Please don’t assume the following analysis means that I think the substance of the issue is unimportant. On the contrary, I assume that policymakers on both sides of this debate feel passionately about their substantive views in this battle, and that they are thinking strategically so they can achieve their desired policy outcome and maximize their team’s chances in the upcoming election. The teams’ strategies serve these two goals.
While I didn’t anticipate it, after the fact I understood the President/Speaker/Majority Leader’s decision to press forward on health care despite overwhelming public opposition. I think blue team leaders decided the policy victory was worth risking some Democratic seats in the midterm election. While I argued against and still strongly oppose the resulting laws, at the same time I respect their willingness to risk their Congressional majorities for a long-term policy goal.
Here are several more recent strategic actions from the blue team leaders that confuse me.