Has President Obama changed the GOP?
By Scott Sumner
Here’s Ramesh Ponnuru:
At no point in Obama’s presidency did his political success make Republicans consider assimilating some of his views into their philosophy, as Bill Clinton had done with Reaganism. Republicans are even less likely to make such an adjustment now.
The Democrats’ political defeats also imperil their policy achievements under Obama. It is not clear how much of Obamacare will survive. But it is clear enough already that Obama is no Reagan.
I certainly agree that Obama is no Reagan (or FDR). But it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions about the impact of his presidency. Consider:
1. The incoming Republican President has adopted Obama’s position that major programs such as Social Security and Medicare should not be cut, thereby repudiating the GOP position.
2. Trump has called for aggressive fiscal stimulus, including infrastructure spending. (Here, however, it’s still unclear if he is calling for federal spending on infrastructure, or private spending.)
3. Trump has called for a federal health care program that would insure access to health insurance for all Americans.
4. Trump has adopted the sort of skeptical view of free trade agreements that has previously been associated with Democratic members of Congress. (Of course in that case Obama was allied with much of the GOP, and both groups lost out under Trump.).
5. In 2013, the GOP strongly opposed Obama’s tax increases on the rich. And yet Trump’s Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin has said that the rich should not receive any tax cut. Any rate reductions must be fully offset by closing loopholes.
In my view there is more uncertainty than usual with the incoming Trump administration, so we’ll have to see how this all plays out. I predict that Obamacare will survive and be accepted by the GOP, perhaps after being formally repealed and replaced with something quite similar.
So I believe it’s far too soon to determine the legacy of the Obama administration. I have mixed feelings about all this. I favor radical change in health care, and worry that we won’t get it. On the other hand I support revenue neutral tax reform that lowers rates and closes loopholes.
I also believe that the GOP is gradually accepting Obama’s position on gay rights, and would not rule out gradual acceptance of Obama’s global warming views. Time will tell.