In an impossibly generous, utterly unrealistic assessment of the non-existent, "high-information" and yet undecided constituency, Ross Douthat concludes in much the same civics-textbook spirit that I heard former Democratic governor Ed Rendell conclude the other day in an MSNBC interview:
[Y]ou could see the improving odds for what once seemed like an unlikely 2012 outcome — a Romney victory in which Democrats hold the Senate — as a nod to the necessity for bipartisanship, and an attempt to make a significant change in Washington while also forcing both parties back to the negotiating table.
Nonsense. What I'm about to suggest will sound cynically irresponsible, but what Douthat and Rendell suggest would spell the end of the republic.
My suggestion is this: should Romney be elected, then Senate Dems should shut it down, they should shut it all down--they should fold their arms and obstruct and deny and dispute and investigate and repeatedly, obsessively propose the same pointless bill (something really pointless, say, single-payer) as the GOP House has done with abortion and they should play brinkmanship on the debt and of course persist in inflicting as much conceivable pain on the middle class as congressionally possible and in general cause nothing but sleepless nights for the sitting president. Just pretty much shut it all down.
Payback? Sure, there's some of that. But mostly it's a matter of virtuously denied rewards. Should Romney win, he will have established the vilest imaginable precedent in American politics: that Goebbelsesque, Big Lie politics can triumph here, just as they have triumphed elsewhere in the squalid course of irredeemably corrupted democracies. He will have demonstrated that truth and straight-shooting and pragmatic competence and even historic accomplishments in the Oval Office mean, electorally, nothing; that it can all be blown away with the fiery howling of a ruthless propaganda machine and a handful of predatory plutocrats. And if such victorious, frankly fascistic tactics are greeted by the welcoming embrace of bipartisan arms and forgiving cooperation and thus a reasonably successful Romney administration, then we could kiss any hope of another honest, honorable presidential campaign goodbye--forever--for that sort of politics would be seen by even the would-be honorable as unserviceably antique.
The parties' "demagoguery gap" could be closed only through a wholesale rejection of republicanism--and with it, in short order, the republic.