Re-Organizing the Political Rules?

I won’t say I agree with every word, but Nancy LeTourneau’s article at the Washington Monthly, “President Obama on Power and Change”, is one of the better articles I’ve seen lately.  In it, LeTourneau describes President’s Obama’s approach to policy and political negotiations as “conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.”

In the article, she quotes Mark Schmitt:

The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear…One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that’s not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists — it’s a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.

Obama’s approach to negotiation has been to put something on the table and challenge his political opponents to respond. Republicans have repeatedly fallen into the trap of having nothing or having only proposals so extreme they were clearly not serious. In a world not distorted by a media entranced of the “both sides do it” narrative, this strategy could have yielded greater results. As LeTourneau describes it:

As the story was told to the American public, it came across as “Washington is gridlocked because both sides have dug in.” According to former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, that is exactly what Republicans had in mind.

I’m not a fan of the “Barack Obama plays eleven dimensional chess” school of thought.  Instead, I like this explanation of his often seemingly timid approach.  He’s not doing politics as usual, instead he’s playing the game differently, he’s playing by a different set of rules. Arriving in a DC up-ended by the seemingly endless failures of the Bush administration, it was obvious something different had to happen.  Well it has been happening and the progress has been achingly slow, but it has been progress.

The question for me is – “Can we expand on the foundation that’s been laid?”

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on August 18, 2015 - 2:26 pm

    The next president is almost guaranteed to have to work with (or against) a Tea-GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate might be different. Dems have a realistic chance to flip 3-6 Senate seats. They need 5 additional seats for a majority (if the next Vice President is a Dem then 4 will do). But that doesn’t begin to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation against the kind of solid opposition President Obama faced from the Party of NO.

    Obama’s strategy of trying to pretend that his bad-faith opponents could be open to compromise not only got disappointing results, it demoralized Dems everywhere (perversely, widespread governmental and economic failure has been scored as a win for the Tea-GOP). I’m not sure if that would even be an option for President Hillary, as she would be a Tea-GOP pinata from day one. Bernie Sanders has proposed mobilizing voters to tell Congress what to do, however that didn’t work for Obama (remember OFA?).

    What’s left? Governing by executive order only goes so far.

  2. #2 by Larry Bergan on August 18, 2015 - 3:32 pm

    Obama has been right on the line of “conservative” philosophy, but maybe he has confused the Republicans. It has made it impossible for them to call him a socialist without losing what they have left of any credibility. And he HAS passed some really good laws as well as saving us from a no-win supreme court. His Cuba and Iran policies are pretty astounding accomplishments. It was a tough first six years, but I’m much happier with him now.

    “The biggest mistake that Barack Obama made” was essentially to tell his supporters, “Thank you very much for electing me, I’ll take it from here,” Senator Sanders told reporters at a Monitor-hosted breakfast Thursday. “I will not make that mistake.”

    I sure like the sound of THAT. I would say it wasn’t just Obama, but the entire Democratic party that’s been doing that, for many years. Who knows better then a constituent of Jim Matheson.

    Let’s hope this Sanders movement will finally be what we’ve been waiting for. We deserve it after all these decades of simmering anger. Maybe the frog will jump out of the pot, just in time.

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