Open Left’s Matt Stoller  argues here and here that there is an operative "conservative majority" in Congress right now. His basic thesis is summarized here:

In particular, this comment by Paul Rosenberg is I think accurate, as he argues that we are facing a conservative but not right-wing Blue Dog/DLC bloc combined with an anti-progressive elite consensus in the form of a hostile media establishment, a hostile think tank and academic structure, a hostile regulatory structure, a hostile set of cultural leaders and a set of old world economic incentives for elites.

Most conservatives will roll their eyes at this. But I was struck by this when contrasted with something that Brian Faughn wrote at the Weekly Standard today. Brian breaks down the 56 bills that have passed into law since the Democrats took over:

Of those, ‘only’ 20 are measures that rename federal facilities. Of the other measures signed into law, four would be considered major legislation, while the other 32 would be ranked anywhere between minor and trivial. There’s also one major piece of legislation–the lobbying reform bill–that has been neither signed nor vetoed.

And those four laws are:

  • FY07 Omnibus
  • FISA
  • 9/11 Commission
  • War supplemental

There’s a pattern here. The GOP side prevailed on two of these (War Supplemental and FISA). A populist security proposal succeeded on another (9/11 Commission). And the FY07 Omnibus was just disgusting, but demonstrated that either the Democrats aren’t serious about cutting spending or no one is serious about cutting spending. My money is on the latter.

The point of all this is that there appears to be a pro-security majority, and — still — no willingness to control spending. Now, what’s the point of all this? This is exactly what Newt Gingrich predicted after the election:

First, the obvious outcome of a Democratic-controlled Congress and a Republican White House is the need for bipartisan cooperation in order to get anything done. The key question is: Which kind of bipartisanship will emerge? Will there be a Ronald Reagan approach to bipartisanship which appeals to the conservative majority of the House? Or will there be an establishment bipartisanship which cuts deals between liberals and the White House?

Newt describes what a bipartisan conservative majority would look like:

On the other hand, a conservative populist grassroots strategy would almost certainly make daily interactions with liberal leaders more confrontational as they found themselves nominally chairing committees but losing votes on the floor and having their initiatives rejected by a conservative grassroots coalition. With a conservative populist grassroots strategy it is the 44 Blue Dog Democrats who would find themselves cross-pressured. In the House, some 54 Democrats won by claiming they were much more conservative than Nancy Pelosi, and much more conservative than the San Francisco values she represents. Here, they would be forced to choose between their voters back home and the promises made to them during the campaign, and their leadership.

Sound like DiFi flipping on Southwick? Or 41 House Democrats voting for FISA? Or the President’s veto threats and framing over Iraq funding and timing issues? Or a whole series of Motions to Recommit in the House?

Now, spending is always popular. The real test on economic issues will come when we see the reconciliation bills, private equity, Korean FTA, etc., come up. Still unclear.

There’s a lesson for conservatives here about the popularity of national security as an issue. It still works. There may be an issue here about taxes, but we don’t know yet. Our framing is wining so far.  And the Dems can’t find a position that works for them, as Stoller’s anger indicates. If we really start communicating on taxes, we might be able to succeed there too. (stopping a tax increase is much, much easier than cutting spending, as everyone knows)

Just a thought for your non-Ames weekend.


Patrick Ruffini :: links for 2007-08-12 · August 12, 2007 at 8:25 AM

[…] » Stoller’s conservative majority theory: A lesson for 2008 (tags: congress pelosi dems) […] » Lefty blogosphere prepares to eat its own · August 14, 2007 at 8:44 AM

[…] I think that this is dumb for a bunch of reasons. The first one is that, on security, there is plenty of evidence, including this very fact, that we have a more conservative country. Second, is their example. Chris Carney represents a pretty Republican district. This was not a "wave" district (NH-1) or a "realignment" seat (CT districts). They guy that he defeated was strangling his girlfriend who was 20 years younger. […]

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