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Conor Williams
Washington, DC

Conor Williams

I’m working on a PhD in Government at Georgetown, so I’m full of ideals, but my optimism is tempered by experience.

The coming Beltway gridlock

Editor's note: The contestants were given free rein for their second post of the day. You can read Conor Williams's earlier post here.


I know this is crazy talk (especially in news circles), but trying to predict the Republican margin of victory in the midterm elections is no longer worth the trouble.  Why?  Well, because we know what's going to happen, and they don't appear likely to deliver overwhelming control to either party.  Congressional gridlock is back, baby!  The Democrats will lose seats, the Republicans will gain some, but the swing won't be enough to grease the nation's legislative wheels.  This doesn't sell ad spots like "Republicans Sweep Back into Washington," or "Democrats Dig in and Hold the House," but it's the truth. 


What does matter, however, is how the President "pivots" in response to Congress' new configuration.  As some have already noted, a new influx of Republicans in Washington means that he'll have more prominent villains to blame when things go wrong.  Until now, the Democrats have had to settle for blaming each other--with predictable results.  


The coming gridlock will seriously challenge Obama.  The economic recovery is still moving slowly, and the national deficit will definitely remain near center stage.  Indeed, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's December recommendations are unlikely to make anyone happy.  Taxes will have to come up and spending will have to go down.  On the other hand, since President Obama has continued and expanded on the previous administration's work on education reform, compromise in this realm is possible.  Immigration reform may also provide the President with an opportunity to work with Republicans on an issue of serious importance to their base. 


Gridlock means limits for everyone's agenda, including newly-elected Republicans.  It is more difficult to maintain ideological purity while sharing responsibility for governing.  However, the most motivated conservative constituency at the moment is the far right.  If Republicans choose ideological intransigence, they will reveal themselves to the country as no more capable legislators than the Democrats.  Remember Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America?  When they refused conciliation with President Clinton and shut down the government, they lost a great deal of their public momentum.  Ask the political scientists blogging over at the Monkey Cage: no matter what Americans think about government's size, they want it to work.  On the other hand, if Republicans choose compromise, Tea Party activists will challenge them from the right. 


What will the elections mean?  They'll mean that both parties are going to have a new set of limits.  What really matters now is how each side responds.  


Read more entries from this challenge round. And come back Friday to vote.

By Conor Williams  |  October 19, 2010; 1:32 PM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge
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Good subject, a bit weak on analysis and presentation. Biggest error is missing the fact Congress has been in gridlock for the last 2 years because the Party of NO! votes a unanimous NO! NO! NO! on every issue. The Repubs put making Obama look bad so they can be re-elected over the good of the country.

Second biggest error, stating that the minority party does not "share responsibility for governing." Pathetic. The Founding Fathers must be rolling their eyes.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 20, 2010 9:17 AM
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haha. oh no, i got that - just thought that you should credit it too.

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 19, 2010 8:39 PM
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Not to be too snarky, but I cited the Gelman blog in the first paragraph:

Glad you liked the piece, though!


Posted by: conorpwilliams | October 19, 2010 8:37 PM
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Like the shout-out to the Monkey Cage, but why no love for the Gelman blog (Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science)?

Glad to see some thoughts on the election beyond the usual horse-race coverage.

Posted by: waltersobchak2 | October 19, 2010 5:35 PM
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