The Blessed Return of Schoenpitches

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 15 2013 1:34 PM

The Blessed Return of Schoenpitches

Too much time had passed since Doug Schoen or Pat Caddell—or when we're lucky, both of them—filed a turgid column about Barack Obama's impending doom. Such columns were a joy of Obama's first term. No mistake or poll dive could come without a Schoen/Caddell column responding to it, explaining what the president needed to abandon (everything) if he wanted to win.

In this trying time, Schoen is back. His latest comes with all the classic dullness we crave: "The Republicans’ flaws are fairly obvious, but the Democrats have more work to do than is commonly acknowledged." 

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But what's the agenda? Democrats need "a new set of policies to encourage growth, tax reform, and entitlement reform." Indeed, "the notion that Democrats can’t back at least some modest spending cuts and reforms to entitlements is dangerous and counterproductive." Why, "there is an opportunity to create a movement on the left that’s based on the economic centrism, national security, and entitlement reform that provided [Bill] Clinton such success during his two terms."

I suppose the White House is at a low enough ebb that columns like this can run without showing their work. The problem with "entitlement reform" is twofold. One: As a party-building act, it's not popular—it's never been popular, if the cuts are to general social welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare. Two: The current crop of Democrats have indeed cut into the future cost of Medicare by a number usually rounded up in Republican campaign ads to "$800 billion." Schoen's arguing, generally, for the Democrats to abandon social welfare, but that's orthogonal to their current problems. They're trying, and failing, to prove that a regulatory state and system of subsidies can redistribute wealth in the health care market to save money down the line.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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