“The Lone Republican”

Ezra Klein on Lindsey Graham’s decision to abandon the climate bill he helped write:

It’s further evidence that the “lone Republican” strategy doesn’t work. Time and again, Democrats have ended up in a room with a single Republican who seemed willing to cut a deal. It was Olympia Snowe on health care, Bob Corker on financial regulation and Lindsey Graham on climate change. In every case, the final bill looked a lot like what that Republican helped negotiate. And in every single case, the Republican realized that he or she couldn’t get more support from their party and so they eventually bolted the effort.

If you think this has all been a cynical strategy, it’s been brilliantly successful. On the one hand, Republicans have had a major role in shaping these bills. On the other hand, they haven’t had to vote for these bills, and so they could cleanly campaign against legislation that a member of their party helped write. And as an added bonus, Democrats are stuck trying to defend a bill that their base doesn’t like very much and that’s thick with compromises that annoy political elites.

I don’t know if it’s all been a cynical strategy or not, but it’s worth noting that it hasn’t been brilliantly successful. Healthcare passed. Financial reform looks set to pass. Climate legislation won’t, but let’s face it: that’s as much due to lack of support from centrist midwest Democrats as it is to lack of support from Republicans.

Now, the Republican strategy does seem to have energized their base and will probably lead to big wins in November and gridlock down the road. The lesson Republicans are likely to take away from this is that obstructionism works and America is a tea party country after all. Hooray! But in fact, most of this has been baked into the cake for a long time simply due to lousy economic conditions. It’s going to take the GOP a few more years in the wilderness to figure out just how wrong they are.

UPDATE: For more on Lindsey Graham’s fairly bizarre turnaround on global warming, check out Kate Sheppard’s interview with him today. “It’s not a stretch to say that what goes into the air is contributing to global warming,” Graham said, “but I don’t want to be in the camp that says I know people in Northern Virginia will never see snow.” And then it gets weirder. Maybe Sarah Palin has gotten hold of his brain?


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