March 31, 2009

CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS, THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING:

Why the Democrats Can't Govern: Look who's killing Obama's agenda now. (Jonathan Chait, 4/15/09, The New Republic)

The last Democrat who held the White House, Bill Clinton, saw the core of his domestic agenda come to ruin, his political support collapse, and his failure spawn a massive Republican resurgence that made progressive reform impossible for a decade to come. The Democrat who last held the White House before that, Jimmy Carter, saw the exact same thing happen to him.

At this early date, nobody can know whether or not Barack Obama will escape this fate. But the contours of failure are now clearly visible. In Obama's case, as with his predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate. At a time when the country desperately needs a coherent response to the array of challenges it faces, the congressional arm of the Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege. Obama has made mistakes, as did his predecessors. Yet the constant recurrence of legislative squabbling and drift suggests a deeper problem than any characterological or tactical failures by these presidents: a congressional party that is congenitally unable to govern.

George W. Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, with only 50 Republicans in the Senate. After his disputed election, pundits insisted Bush would have to scale back his proposed massive tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Bush managed to enact several rounds of tax cuts that substantially exceeded those in his campaign platform, along with two war resolutions, a Medicare prescription drug benefit designed to maximize profits for the health care industry, energy legislation, education reform, and sundry other items. Whatever the substantive merits of this agenda, its passage represented an impressive feat of political leverage, accomplished through near-total partisan discipline.


If we were capable of learning from history Mr. Chait would grasp that just as Bill Clinton saved his presidency by reverting to the essentially conservative politics he ran on and a position in open opposition to his own party, so too can Barrack Obama be re-elected--which is all he cares about--by helping re-elect a GOP majority and governing from the Center-Right, a la W.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2009 8:49 PM
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