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If I were president, I would simply order public opinion to no longer be thermostatic

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Nate Cohn says that Biden is in trouble because he’s following the same approach that failed for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton:

There are some really obvious problems here. First of all, it’s not really clear what Joe Biden could do that would 1)focus on fighting inflation and 2)be politically popular. (Leaving aside that he cannot personally order a dramatic raise in interest rates, I can say with some assurance that the results would not leave him more popular.) Second, personally if I could be as politically successful as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — both of whom won second terms, could probably have won again if they were allowed to, and saw their successors win popular vote majorities despite savage treatment from the national press — I would sign for that.

But there’s an even bigger problem here. Cohn conveniently skips over the one Democratic presidency that didn’t try to push (let alone succeed in passing) a transformative policy agenda. Coming to office at a time in which the Democratic Party was dominant in Congress and at the state level, he won 6 states and 41% of the popular vote when he ran for re-election. I dunno, if your theory of presidential politics implies that Jimmy Carter was a more politically successful president than Barack Obama or Bill Clinton I’d say it could probably use a few more hours in the oven. The problem here is that Cohn is taking a phenomenon that applies to virtually all presidents and suggesting it’s the result of tactical and/or strategic failures by specific ones.

There is a weaker version of this argument I would agree with — the error from the other direction is the oft-expressed theory that doing good policy will generally lead to good political outcomes. There is very little reason to believe that either. But that’s not a good reason not to do good policy — the thermostat cometh either way, so might as well use the power you have while you have it.

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