White House Isn't Everything
By Alan Pell Crawford
George Will on Sunday offered sage counsel, no doubt unwelcome, to supporters of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum: Vote for whomever you want but don’t expect much of that vote, and if your real interest is limiting the power of President Obama, consider other ways to achieve that goal.
Doubtful that Romney or Santorum can win in November, Will fears that Republicans are setting themselves up for debilitating disappointment. They might also damage their own larger cause by nominating either man. Their selection might well “subtract from the long-term project of making conservatism intellectually coherent and politically palatable.”
Republicans would be better served, Will argues, by working to retain control of the House and win control of the Senate. If the GOP can do that, the majorities they enjoy in committees
will serve as fine-mesh filters, removing President Obama’s initiatives from the stream of legislation. Then Republicans can concentrate on what should be the essential conservative project of restoring something like constitutional equipoise between the legislative and executive branches.
Even under a lame-duck president, a Republican Senate will be able to
put sand in the gears of an overbearing and overreaching executive branch. This could restore something resembling the rule of law, as distinct from government by fiats issuing from unaccountable administrative agencies exercising excessive discretion.
While conservative Republicans need not be indifferent to their party’s nominee, Will reminds them, “the presidency is not everything.”
Democrats, who not so long ago reeled aghast the power wielded by Obama’s predecessor, should take heed, too. So should all Americans who care about influencing politics. We might all use whatever resources at our disposal to elect a Congress we can support, rather than fretting about the White House.
Most people simply don’t get much bang for their buck giving to presidential candidates. “Your money will make a much bigger difference in practically every other type of election,” blogger Jonathan Bernstein, a liberal himself, points out:
If you’re a typical donor of the $25, $100, or even $5,000 variety, your money is just a drop in the ocean of the hundreds of millions of dollars that both sides are going to spend on the presidential election. But more importantly, what we know about voter behavior suggests that money is least important in presidential (general) elections. Money matters more in nomination fights—where the candidates share a party label—than in general elections, where most voters will use the party label as a powerful cue. Moreover, voters will pay less attention to information they hear through paid advertising when there is plenty of other information available, as is the case with high-profile presidential elections. Add it all up, and your money just matters more—a lot more—in lower profile contests.