February 08, 2005

THE LONG GAME VS. THE SHORT GAME, on Social Security. Ron Brownstein thinks that Bush is likely to lose on Social Security reform. Mickey Kaus thinks that Bush had better lose, and fast: "That is why the reports that Bush is pushing for an ambitiously expedited consideration of his proposal aren't necessarily a sign of strength, or of a cunning high-pressure Rovian strategy for victory. They may be a strategy to lose quickly, with minimal harm done to the Republican majority."

That's the short game. Bush may, in fact, lose there, too. But the long game is based on the fact that Bush has taken the "scaring seniors" bit off the table -- except for those who haven't gotten the news that people over 55 aren't affected -- and that younger voters tend to regard Social Security as somebody else's retirement program, not their own. As 20-something writer Laura Thomas noted recently in The Washington Post:

People my age are as likely to believe in Social Security as they are in Santa Claus. And, if you ask me, it would be equally naive for a twenty-something to believe in either one.

They're putting their faith in 401k plans. Bush won't win their votes in large numbers by promising to give them a bit more to invest. But by maneuvering the Democrats into becoming the party of the status quo yet again -- or maybe "the party of the AARP" is a better term -- he helps cement their minority status, and makes them send the message that they don't care about younger voters. As the long game progresses, that can only help the Republicans, and hurt the Democrats. But the real point here is that a lot of people are having trouble understanding what Bush is doing, because they haven't figured out the difference between the long game and the short game. And he's pretty clearly playing the long game.

[Speaking of long games, this was posted late because I saved it as a draft, and just noticed it had never appeared. D'oh!]