Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bainbridge's Final Exam

Don't you just goddamn love the way lawprofs write blogs? I'm answering this because it's brainfood and because it'll be my little way of expressing empathy with all those poor college and law school kids out there getting ready for finals. Professor Bainbridge has a post about Rubinomics, and whether or not those assorted policies could actually be the key to a Democratic victory in 2008. Bainbridge I think correctly names Rubinomics as consisting principally of:

1) Vigorous Deficit Reduction

2) Free Global Markets

3) Investments in Training, Education, and the Environment.

He asks two questions. One:

So I propound a question to the class for debate; namely, the economic policies of Rubinomics, based on vigorous deficit reduction, free global markets, and investments in education, training, and the environment, were principally responsible for Bill Clinton's reelection in 1996 and the principal achievement of the Clinton administration. True or False. Explain.

This is sort of a two-part question. The first bit relates to the 1996 re-election. In that election, Rubinomics definitely didn't hurt Clinton. However, the key to how he won that re-election, I think, related a lot more to his opponent. Clinton received a gift with Bob Dole as a challenger in the same way Bush got the PR godsend with Kerry. Not that Dole isn't a decent guy. Instead, Dole's problem consisted of his preachinous and high-horse tactics trying to attack Clinton's character. In the end, he came off as unlikable, similar to how Kerry's obsessions with nuance looked and smacked of elitism. A better challenger might have given Clinton a run for his money, but Dole certainly did not campaign well and chose tactics poorly. Rubinomics did give Clinton a solid economic platform to stand on, and that certainly helped him when re-election time arrived, but it did not really constitute the decisive factor. In an election where character issues received way too much attention and the substantive issues got virtually ignored, one would have to make a real stretch to assume people voted based on sound economic policies. So, the notion that it was responsible for his re-election is probably false, as the election itself failed to get that substantive.

However, he also tags to that question asking whether or not Rubinomics might go down in history as Clinton's principal achievement. That is more likely true. Rubinomics did help sustain the 1990s boom (setting conspiracy theory arguments about what started and ended it aside) and on that ground it can be called the principal achievement of Clinton. Specifically, if Rubinomics has global free trade as a characteristic, Clinton's adoption of NAFTA and other bilateral agreements with Central America and China certainly represent major accomplishments and watersheds in global trade. The record Rubinomics produced is more than enough for Clinton to hang his hat on and accomplished a lot for transforming the US economy into one more sustainable for the future.

Next, Bainbridge asks:

Extra credit question: A Democrat who (a) truly espoused and was credibly committed to reinstating Rubinomics, (b) can be trusted with national security, and (c) is credibly committed to actually doing something to make sure that abortion is not just "safe" and "legal," but also "rare," instead of just mouthing the formula the way Clinton did, would be a gosh darn attractive option in 2008. True or False. Explain.

This would no doubt be true. This is pretty much the moderate wish-list for Republicans and Democrats. The fact that Bainbridge immediately credits that a Democrat could be trusted with national security is like cheating. The public already has lost faith in Republicans on a host of domestic issues, and a Democrat that backs a) and c) is likely to snatch a lot of cynics and disillusioned people. And, as National Security is a given in this formulation and is the primary weakness of Democrats in the public eye (though that is turning around), chances are such a Democrat would clean up electorally. They would have everything working for them and, in effect, bring together what the public has responded to in elections on both the domestic and foreign issues. The public craves such a candidate, whether Democrat or Republican, and a candidate that possessed all these strengths would likely take a glut of votes from both parties no matter what label they had.

Bainbridge asks to name such a Democrat. I've got one idea.