How to Win a Presidential Election?

by Burt on May 18, 2011

Many commenters are disturbed by the revelations that dozens of exemptions for the enforcement of Obamacare are being granted. We have thirty-eight exemptions, according to one report, in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district. Also, John Stossel reports over 1,500,000 union members are exempted. Congresswoman Pelosi claims to have no knowledge of these exemptions in San Francisco, but her district is heavily Democratic. How strange it seems for San Francisco residents and for union members, who are such staunch supporters of the president, to be seeking exceptions to a program they thoroughly supported. But is there more to this story?

When a complicated and expensive program, like Obamacare, becomes law, it is a great opportunity to win votes. If President Obama follows the pattern of some of his predecessors in the White House, he will use these exemptions to win votes in 2012.

FDR taught us this lesson with his massive WPA program to build roads and various public works. A Democratic Congress gave Roosevelt $4.8 billion–then an unprecedented sum–to build roads, buildings, and other types of projects throughout the country. Like Obamacare, the WPA was complicated and FDR had discretion to approve of certain projects if he wanted to do so. The result was that mayors and congressmen throughout the country came to Washington hat in hand to get federal aid from FDR and from Harry Hopkins, who headed the WPA. Republicans and Democrats alike wanted that money to bring jobs to their districts, and FDR had control of the purse strings.

Cleverly, FDR hired a consultant who measured where all funding went during his presidency. With that detailed knowledge, Roosevelt could pressure politicians to vote for one of his programs or support his bid for re-election. Large, complicated federal programs are golden opportunities to disperse favors to friends and punish enemies. It forces many people to join your side.

What happened in the 1936 presidential election after FDR dished out billions of federal dollars? Answer: Roosevelt carried every state in the union except Maine and Vermont–two states that received little federal aid. As Democratic Senator Carter Glass of Virginia said after Roosevelt’s triumph, “The 1936 elections would have been much closer had my party not had a 4 billion 800 million dollar relief bill [the WPA] as campaign fodder.”

That’s one of many reasons why the Republicans must defund or repeal Obamacare.

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