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Grand Unified Theory of Green Lanternism

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Showcase 22.pngEric Cantor is, believe it or not, making sense:

But somewhere along the road, a number of voices on the right began demanding that the Republican Congress not only block Mr. Obama’s agenda but enact a reversal of his policies. They took to the airwaves and the Internet and pronounced that congressional Republicans could undo the president’s agenda — with him still in office, mind you — and enact into law a conservative vision for government, without compromise.

Strangely, according to these voices, the only reason that was not occurring had nothing to do with the fact that the president was unlikely to repeal his own laws, or that under the Constitution, absent the assent of the president or two-thirds of both houses of Congress, you cannot make law. The problem was a lack of will on the part of congressional Republican leaders.

The rest is also worth reading. Cantor makes a good case that the Green Lantern Theory of Governance has resulted not simply in the deep annoyance of people who know better, but in the failure of the GOP to make achievable gains on its key policy preferences. It’s a pretty compelling case, and one that Democrats would be well-advised to keep in mind.

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  • Mudge

    Cantor makes some sense on procedure, but still makes no sense at all on policy. He belittles the stimulus and proudly touts the sequestration..which if I remember came about as a result of a debt ceiling threat. It will be a sad day if the Republicans discover a way to enact their agenda.

  • Roger That

    Mr. Cantor, I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to reasonable op-eds.

  • Denverite

    I have never heard of a football team that won by throwing only Hail Mary passes

    I see Congressman Cantor didn’t watch the late 90s/early 00s St. Louis Rams.

  • brewmn

    Not having read Cantors piece, I’d love for him now to explain why he supported (or at least did not vocally oppose) all the extremist rhetoric and posturing when he was in a position to actually make a difference.

    Much easier to blame it on those crazy, unspecified “voices on the right” I guess.

    • Keaaukane

      My memory is that he was one of the ring leaders of the 2013 shutdown. He was one of the crazies he now disowns.

  • creature

    Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, but in Mr. Cantor’s case, it is blind.

  • Mike in DC

    The flip side of this is how difficult it will be for a President Clinton or Sanders to accomplish anything in terms of domestic policy with the current composition of the legislative branch. There’s a limit to what can be accomplished with executive orders, agency regulations and policy initiatives.
    At least Obama had a 2 year window to pass some big stuff.
    Barring a dramatic turnout and a wide victory margin, it may be a very depressing 4 years.
    Of course, if a Republican gets elected, that would be vastly worse. The minimal consolation would be an improvement in our mid term prospects as the opposition party.

    • Murc

      If we can take the Senate that ain’t nothing. Presumably a hypothetical Clinton or Sanders administration will move far more strongly on judges than the Obama Administration did.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Damned if you do, etc…

        There’ll always be people complaining that the Senate was flipped only by electing a bunch of lukewarm, bi-partisan-curious squishes, and that we’d all be better off with a smaller, purer, harder, more disciplined, more progressive, Democratic caucus than a mongrel majority.

        • DAS

          I think that somewhat misrepresents the argument: I think the argument was (a) that more liberal candidates could have been elected and (b) that such candidates by being less squishy and stronger in communicating and working to enact a coherent agenda would have been more likely to have been re-elected. Certainly, all things being equal, a slightly smaller but more disciplined Democratic caucus would have been better because it would have gotten more stuff done in a less compromised manner which would have allowed the Democrats to come back in the next election cycle and say “look at what we accomplished, now elect even more of us to office and think about all the good stuff we’ll get done”

          In general, I think the problem with the critique of Green Lanternism (which has actually worked out pretty well for the GOP politically, which is part of why (a) more conservative voices think it will work in our foreign policy and military adventures and (b) progressives are so tempted by it) is that the critique assumes that political alignments and district “color” (red vs. blue) are constant. Part of the “Green Lantern” strategy is that by standing firm when you cannot win, if people are inspired by your stands and your stands allow you to communicate your agenda, you convince more people to vote for you so you will be able to win.

          In the case of the GOP, this works very well: since a key GOP selling point is that government doesn’t do anything right (except for killing or imprisoning melanically enhanced people), making sure the government can’t do anything right doesn’t really hurt you in the next election, now does it? So what’s the cost of Green Laternism vs. the benefit to the party’s long term prospects?

          OTOH, it doesn’t quite work for Democrats as our party’s brand is that government can work for the benefit of society. Thus, Democrats have to enact laws and get stuff done and done well to win elections. So Democrats cannot do well electorally simply by standing firm and showing will. OTOH, having an ideologically compromised majority may also not work so well for Democrats as it interferes with doing constructive things.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I’m sure the people Cantor is trying to address will dismiss this as whining from a loser.

  • Murc

    Is it wrong that I sometimes wonder if this:

    The problem was a lack of will on the part of congressional Republican leaders.

    Might not actually be correct?

    Like, I legitimately wonder what might happen if the Congress really did follow through on burning the country. “You will enact our agenda, Mister President, and undo your own, or we will simply do nothing while things fall to pieces. How strong is your resolve.”

    Like, what if they really did shut it all down and keep it shut down literally forever, months leading into years, until at least the next election, unless they got their way? Would Obama (or any hypothetical Dem President) actually blink? Would inevitable electoral losses follow?

    Part of me says “that would never happen, and even if they summoned up the political will, Obama would never knuckle under and they’d just get destroyed at the ballot box.”

    Another part of me wonders. It would take… an awful lot of willpower to sit in a mostly-empty White House (because everyone has gone home because there’s no money to pay them) for months on end, watching shit crumble, knowing you can stop it by just signing a few bills.

    I could just be worrying over nothing, of course.

    • humanoid.panda

      Could be, but I think a more plausible scenario is the president starting to reopen things, maybe on an IOU basis, or using that platinum coin to pay for stuff, and challenging the courts and Congress to stop him/her.

      Anyway, I think your hypothetical applies better to debt ceiling breach. What happens if its a minute to midnight, the markets just fell 10%, and thigns are spiraling out of control?

    • burritoboy

      It’s difficult to say, of course. But most Presidential systems eventually just collapse into an all-powerful President and a nominal legislature kept around for appearances. Ultimately, whoever controls the armed forces, law enforcement and the intelligence agencies will win in a very prolonged show-down. That’s the President. If the President has lost control of the armed forces, a legislature still doesn’t win – either the armed forces take over themselves and sideline the legislature, or the armed forces back some other single figure who takes away all or most of the power from both the old President and the legislature.

      Legislatures rely on a certain level of settled understanding of their status, otherwise they are too weak to mount much of a battle against an executive. The traditional ways around this was simply not to have a separate executive at all, or to merge executive and legislative functions into one parliamentary branch.

    • Ken

      Or, within three days of the Social Security checks not going out, every member of the House has been recalled by their state legislature. (A few might, Blackadder-style, accidentally brutally stabbed themselves in the stomach while combing their hair.)

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        There is no recall for members of the House or Senate. NONE.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    During President Obama’s first two years in office, his party controlled the House and for a time had a supermajority in the Senate. Almost entirely on their own they enacted a nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill, Obamacare and Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Not for the first or last time, alternative suggestions from Republicans were dismissed out of hand.

    Ah yes the reasonable alternative suggestions resembling the counter-offer of Michael Corleone in GF2!

    • Breadbaker

      The difference being that the Senator had no leverage and hadn’t realized it. A majority in the House that sees things essentially the same way and a supermajority in the Senate (which only happened between the end of the Franken election litigation and the special election in Massachusetts, therefore less than two full years) are leverage. That’s the whole fucking point.

  • efgoldman

    Somehow I think that if old snake eyes had won the primary and been re-elected, these deep thoughts would never have seen the light of day.

  • gogiggs

    Cantor seems to be conveniently overlooking where this behavior was learned.
    Does he think we’ve all forgotten all the times we were told that the only thing holding us back in Iraq was lack of will to win?Does he think we’ve all failed to notice that official Republican foreign policy pronouncements almost all consist of ignoring the interests and concerns of other countries and just loudly demanding that they give us everything we want, while we sail our navy around near their country?
    I mean, he’s not wrong about what they’re doing, but:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Elr5K2Vuo

  • CJColucci

    How will GL stop that missile? It’s yellow.
    I always thought that “the ring won’t work on anything yellow” was a stupid limitation. If GL came across a bad guy in yellow spandex, why couldn’t he just pick up a nearby brown or grey boulder and drop it on the baddie?
    And don’t get me started on the Million Dollar Man with one bionic leg, one bionic arm, and an ordinary human spine that would shatter if he used his powers.

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