BRODER BEING BRODER…. You’ll never guess what the Washington Post‘s David Broder wrote about in his new column: the importance of the “center” in American politics, and the need for President Obama to “pursue bipartisan support.”
Instead of scrutinizing every paragraph in the piece, let’s just focus on Broder’s most problematic point.
Though badly underrepresented in Congress, where districting rules and campaign finance practices reinforce the two-party hegemony, the independent voters make up the swing vote in almost every contested election — including the presidential race.
It is the reaction of those swing voters — or the politicians’ anticipation of their shifting opinion — that drives the outcome of the big policy debates. You’ve had an example of this already with Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal for protecting the environment from carbon discharges.
Once political independents, who like the idea of clean air, grasped that cap-and-trade would mean a big tax increase for them, Republican opposition was reinforced and Democratic support weakened to the point that the Obama plan may already be doomed this year.
First, this notion that political independents balked at a cap-and-trade policy is unsupported. The debate over a cap-and-trade proposal has barely begun, and I suspect the typical political independent not only has never heard of the idea, but couldn’t even begin to explain what it is or what they think about it.
Second, the notion that cap-and-trade “would mean a big tax increase” for voters is near the top of the Republican Party’s talking points, but it’s also one of the most dishonest policy claims bandied about this year. “Republican opposition was reinforced,” not because political independents turned against the idea, but because the GOP lied, even after having been told the truth.
Brad Plumer recently explained that “most carbon revenue would be rebated back to consumers, and that certain conservation measures could help reduce energy bills. But the actual MIT study implies that the welfare cost would be around $31 per person in 2015, rising to an average of $85 per person per year — not including the benefits of cleaner air and a habitable planet.” Brian Beutler added that “increased costs will be somewhat offset by rebates,” but just as importantly, “consumers will respond to higher energy prices by being more efficient and reducing consumption and that alternative fuels will become cheaper and so on.”
If only we had some respected, non-partisan media voice at one of the nation’s leading news outlets — say, a “dean” of the press corps — who could cut through the nonsense and let news consumers know about these details, instead of using hackneyed GOP talking points to make an unsupported claim.