Barone describes the danger of one-party rule
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:12 AM
How could a man who mounted such a masterful presidential campaign offer such a mediocre record in office during his opening year? Michael Barone has some ideas. He shares them in The Washington Examiner:
A truly wise Washington analyst, National Journal's Jonathan Rauch, says the problem is one-party government. Presidents lead better, he argues, when they are constrained by the need to get bipartisan support.
There's something to that. Obama's three predecessors all had bipartisan initiatives: the 1990 tax package for George Bush 41, North American Free Trade Agreement approval for Clinton, the 2001 education bill and the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit for George Bush 43. Obama has had no bipartisan initiatives of his own.
The fact that Democrats, from last July until last week, had a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to go along with Nancy Pelosi's strong majority in the House seems to have tempted Team Obama to go the all-Democratic route on health care, cap and trade and fiscal policy. But even strong temptations should sometimes be resisted.
I think the problem is more basic and helps to explain why the people who put together a successful campaign have not, so far at least, provided successful governance.
Obama campaigned as someone who would rise above partisan divisions. He first attracted national attention in 2004, when our politics was a kind of culture war, by stressing what red-state America and blue-state America had in common. He campaigned in a similar vein in 2007 and 2008.
But when he came to office in 2009, the cultural issues that had occupied so much of the political landscape for a dozen years had been eclipsed in importance by the financial crisis and the deepening recession.
So Obama was faced with a fundamental choice. He could either chart a bipartisan course in response to the economic emergency, or he could try to expand government to Western European magnitude as Democratic congressional leaders, elected for years in monopartisan districts, had long wished to do.
The former community organizer and Chicago pol chose the latter course.
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