The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I plan to write more soon on Donald Trump and the presidency, but here I wanted to make a more lighthearted post about the politics of changing administrations. Longtime readers may remember that on the night of the 2008 presidential election, when the election was called for Barack Obama, I published this snarky post:
Memo to Political Commentators for the Next Four Years
With a switch from Republican to Democratic control of the White House a few weeks away, I thought I would remind political commentators of the new ground rules.
1) Republicans Must Now Oppose Executive Power; Democrats Must Be In Favor Of It. In the last few years, Republicans have been the defenders of executive power: A muscular executive has been needed to fight the war on terror. On the other hand, Democrats have opposed a strong executive on the ground that it threatens the rule of law. Please note that these arguments must now switch. Republicans must now talk of the dangers of executive power; Democrats must now speak of how a strong and agile executive branch is necessary to a modern democracy.
2) Republicans Must Now Oppose Judicial Confirmations; Democrats Must Be In Favor. In the last few years, Republicans wanted an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees; one of their leading blogs on the judicial confirmations was ConfirmThem.com. On the other hand, Democrats focused on the importance of carefully evaluating judicial candidates. Please note that these arguments must now switch, too. Republicans should now visit RejectThem.com (still an available domain name, btw—won't be for long!), and Democrats should emphasize the need for a quick up or down vote.
3) Republicans Must Now Favor Legislative Oversight; Democrats Must Now Oppose It. You get the point by now. Yup, everyone has to switch sides on this one, too. If we all stick to the script, in 6 months the old arguments of the Bush era will be long forgotten. (Oh, and extra credit to those who charge the other side with hypocrisy for changing sides without noting that they have changed sides, too.)
Given that post, I feel obligated to remind commentators to turn their clocks back—to 2008. Trump being a different kind of president will likely interrupt that easy partisan narrative somewhat. But for a lot of commentators, the old rules will be new again.