New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a remarkable column this week in which he makes the case for Romney as the vessel of bipartisan reform. In the piece, he makes a reasonable set of assertions:
1. Obama will pursue what Brooks calls "a moderate and sensible agenda", including re-creating the "Grand Bargain", immigration reform, corporate tax reform, infrastructure and such.
2. Republicans will fight him tooth and nail on everything, as they have done for the whole first term.
3. Were Romney in the White House, Democrats would be more likely to work with him than Republicans have been to work with Obama.
He goes on to imagine a scenario where Romney would offer to increase taxes on the wealthy, give up chunks of the Ryan budget cuts, and decrease the size of his tax cuts in order to get the Democrat-controlled Senate to go along with his plans to shift the government to the right. Republicans would, according to Brooks, vote for these things because they don't want to make a Republican president look bad.
Brooks' faith in the ability of Republicans to learn compromise is absurd on its face. The Republican Party has spent the last 30 years whipping its base into an anti-tax frenzy. The Republicans Brooks expects to vote for Romney's tax-raising compromise with Senate Democrats would be decimated in the GOP primaries next time around. Almost every Republican in Congress signed Grover Norquist's pledge to never ever raise taxes ever, and those broken pledges would end lots of careers.
So I'm not as optimistic as Brooks about the chances of bipartisan solutions under a President Romney. In the spirit of his article, however, I'd like to imagine a scenario where an Obama victory leads to bipartisan cooperation:
Obama wins re-election and pursues his "moderate and sensible" agenda. Republicans know that the economy will likely add 12 million jobs during his second term even if Obama is prevented from passing anything. Given their failure, in this scenario, to win the White House in 2012 with a bad economy, they are leery of their prospects of defeating the incumbent party in 2016 when things are (probably) much improved. They also know, as things stand, that they are on the wrong side of the nation's evolving demographics. If they continue to pursue policies that result in their candidate losing Latinos 73-21, they will go the way of the Whigs. These short- and long-term realities will bring Republicans to the table, correctly recognizing that their obstructionist tactics are a path to irrelevance.
A boy can dream.