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Calvin Freiburger

The Folly of Over-Analyzing Electoral Strategy

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Posted on September 24 2010 5:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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At Mediaite, Glenn Davis is confused by Ann Coulter’s latest appearance on “Hannity.” Coulter’s prediction that the Republican Party will retake the House but not the Senate is straightforward enough, so let’s see if we can’t figure out what’s up with the other part of her analysis:

Coulter also said she didn’t really want Republicans to win both houses of Congress, because “then Obama will get a second term like Bill Clinton did.” (Wonder if Clinton will respond to that, too?) The puzzling thing was that Coulter said that if Republicans win the Senate and the House, “they’ll start passing great stuff; admittedly, they’ll save the country.” So, the interesting equation Coulter appears to have worked out in her head is: “Badness of a second term for Obama > Goodness of saving the entire country.”

Given the prevalence of the talking point in some circles that right-wing pundits allegedly care more about their own success than about real political progress, it’s not surprising that conservatives discussing potential downsides to Republican victory would be met with suspicion. But Coulter has a point: if a Republican Congress does get elected and manage to improve conditions in the country, Obama could reap the benefits of a more confident electorate and moderate himself just enough to squeak by, much like Clinton did. Then again, there’s only so much a Congress can do as long as an opposing president holds the veto pen, and it remains to be seen just how much compromise Obama is ideologically capable of.

But for the moment, let’s assume a GOP takeover of both houses leads to “saving the country” with good legislation, but also gives Obama four more years. Would defeating Obama in 2012 be worth letting the Democrats have their way in the meantime? From a conservative standpoint, there would be benefits and drawbacks to either scenario. On the one hand, a less-ambitious Obama with an adversarial Congress to keep his disastrous agenda in check would be a step up from the left-wing crusading we’ve been getting so far. On the other hand, the legislature has relatively little influence over the foreign policy of a wartime commander-in-chief. Is two years’ worth of worse domestic policy worth a better shot at four years of good foreign policy?

Complicating matters further still are the fact that Republicans are notoriously bad at maintaining resolve and identifying firm principles, and that just how far they’ve come from their own recent left-wing tendencies remains an open question. Add to that the fact that political winds can change significantly in short periods of time, that any number of possible future events within the next two months and two years could rock conventional wisdom in unforeseen ways, and that we don’t even know whether or not a compelling and viable conservative presidential candidate will emerge, and the very idea of trying to decide whether or not to trade one victory for another begins to look like a tremendous waste of time. My humble advice for the fall: don’t get too distracted by trying to game the system. Look at your candidates’ character and principles, compare them to your own, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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