(Bloomberg View) — Ah, the joys of doing nothing. Republicans must remember them fondly, as they struggle with the difficulties of actually designing real-world bills that have to get past the Senate, and y’know, not hideously offend large numbers of voters.
Democrats, meanwhile, are discovering the sweet, toddler-like joys of just saying “no” to everything. Help Republicans repeal Obamacare? Heck no. Quietly stand by while Republicans approve an eminently qualified nominee to the Supreme Court? No, no, no!
After years of failing at the grown-up business of passing legislation, small wonder the Democrats would like to let the Republicans have a try at being the adults in the room. In politics, saying “no” is a great deal of fun.
Besides, that’s where the electorate seems to be right now. Right after the election, when I was on vacation in Asia, I predicted on Facebook that we’d see Democrats investing in increasingly counterproductive obstructionism, simply because that was what the base was going to want:
Liberals have been very fond of arguing that [conservative] elites somehow encouraged the growth of these destabilizing influences by not shutting down … well, name your candidate: right-wing talk radio, the tea party, obstructionist forces in Congress, Donald Trump. Liberals are about to find out what those Republicans have long known: they had no power to shut them down. All the tools they might have used had been taken away decades ago, mostly by progressives.
For exactly the same structural forces are at work on the left. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Those forces have been masked by Democratic possession of the presidency, which is a unifying force far out of proportion to its actual usefulness. As long as your party holds the White House, you feel like you have a shot at getting things done, and you are willing to cut a great deal of slack to your leadership. Prepare to see Republicans get a lot quieter and more cooperative, and the obstreperous forces on the left to get angrier and more intransigent.