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McConnell’s Cold Logic vs. Obama’s Bipartisan Pipe Dream

In case it wasn’t clear to everyone after watching two years of politically driven lockstep obstructionism in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, fresh on the heels of Tuesday’s big Republican victory, has again directly stated that his top goal is to make sure Obama loses in 2012. From The Hill:

“Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office,” McConnell will say Thursday during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Before people start thinking McConnell is some kind of partisan hack, from his perspective, his logic is both politically and ideologically sound. There is a very strong case that preventing Obama from getting re-elected should be his top goal.

McConnell is a Republican and believes in the party’s platform. By nature, he opposes what Democrats stand for. McConnell wants to see Republicans elected and his goal should be to get many Republican policies passed into law, which is almost impossible with a Democrat as president

McConnell has basically two options. One, he can try to reaching bipartisan compromise with Obama for a few small changes McConnell wants while also being forced to enshrine in law things he opposes. Doing this carries the strong risk of making Obama more likely to win re-election and Democrats more likely to win back the House. The result would be a minor compromise in policy, but a real chance of Obama winning re-election. And with Obama in office, McConnell would at best only get minor compromise policy “victories” for another four years.

Option two is to obstruct and attack Obama, hoping it increases the chance of a Republican being elected president in 2012 and more Republicans elected to the Senate. (Note: the Senate playing field will be very favorable to Republicans in 2012.) With full Republican control, they could enact sweeping conservative policy changes.

It would seem that sacrificing two years of possibly minor compromise victories in the hopes of big political and policy gains in 2012 is the smart move from McConnell’s perspective.

The point is that Obama’s hope of reaching some glorious bipartisan compromise with Republicans is a fool’s pipe dream. Obama can’t reach out to the Republicans and simply find some way to “reason” with them because of basic game theory. From the GOP’s perspective, they have already embraced the most logical and reasonable plan of action, which is to do anything they can to bring down Obama’s presidency.

You can’t reach compromise with a group when they’ve concluded it is in their best interest not to compromise. In the face of this cold reality, Obama’s theoretically sincere repetition that he believes he can somehow find magic bipartisanship only makes him look ineffective, weak, and deeply dishonest. Obama needs to wake up to this reality and find a way to explain it to the American people because McConnell has already put Obama’s re-election on the line.

I do not agree with McConnell’s thinking. I wish his top goal were to help the millions of Americans struggling right now, but I can appreciated the cold, simple logic of it.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at