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August 04, 2010

Obama: A Love Story

From JEM in the comments.

So let's establish a long-winded metaphor here. You're a girl, let's say your name is America, and you were in a long-term relationship with a guy - let's call him W - who started off okay, even caught a purse-snatcher and beat the snot out of him.

Then he started going off the rails a little, he let go of the purse-snatcher to chase a guy that he thought might mug him. He went out to drink with Ted Kennedy a couple too many times. Just generally got kind of irritating, stopped listening to you, and you realized that you were really annoyed by his big ears. When he put your money in a bank that was going broke you got really mad.

So next time you decided to have a fling with a guy who was as unlike the last guy as possible. Entirely reasonable.

Except that six weeks into the new relationship you realized he'd named his genital wart and liked to talk to it. He spoke authoritatively about everything, but couldn't actually do anything without calling all the buddies he'd known at Harvard. He'd spent weeks telling you about how different he was than the last guy, but then you noticed he went to all the same restaurants as W. He had a lot of brilliant friends but every time you were near them they were trying to pick your pocket. And then he started lecturing you about all your bad habits.

By now you're thinking homosexuality might be a really good idea.

Other articles: Obama's Summer of No Love from Politico, and Jay Cost on What Went Wrong With Obama, which I'm gonna subtitle myself The God Who Failed.

Or: It's the Geography, Stupid.

Here's Cost:

Was there an alternative approach the President could have taken? I think so. Such a tactic would have acknowledged the sizeable McCain bloc. McCain won 22 states, making his coalition a politically potent minority. Obama should have governed in light of this. I don't mean in hock to it. He didn't have to make Sarah Palin his domestic policy advisor, but he should have ignored the hagiographers who were quick to declare him the next FDR. These flatterers always manifest themselves anytime a new Democrat comes to the White House, and they are of very little help for Democratic Presidents who actually want to be great.

What he should have done instead was disarm his opponents. If he had built initial policy proposals from the middle, he could have wooed the moderate flank of the Republican party, marginalized the conservatives, and alleviated the concerns of those gettable voters in the South and the Midwest. This is precisely what Bill Clinton did between 1995 and 2000, and it is what the President's promises of "post-partisanship" suggested.

Our system of government can only produce policy when geographically broad coalitions favor it. The Senate, more than any other institution, forces such breadth. Obama created breadth the wrong way. He watered down initially liberal legislation to prompt just enough moderate Democrats to sign on. Instead, he should have built policy from the center, then worked to pick up enough votes on either side. The left would have been disappointed, but the right would have been marginalized and, most importantly, Independent voters - who have abandoned the President in droves - might still be on board.

A revolutionary idea in our polarized political climate, I know. Still: ask your average swing voter what he or she thinks of such an approach, and watch them nod in agreement.


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posted by Ace at 03:06 PM

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