Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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What Went Wrong with Obama, Part 10,389

With Obama's approval rating sitting at about 45 percent according to the latest RCP average, and the Missouri landslide vote against Obamacare yesterday, expect more and more of the media chin-pullers to be dumping on the guy as much as the NLT community.  Jay Cost has a typically interesting piece (because it's quantitative and qualitative) up at RCP reflecting on Obama's mistaken grand strategy.  I especially agree with this portion toward the end:

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.

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I was telling a friend the other day that in a sense we're lucky that Obama is so cold, ham-handed, and overtly partisan. If he were a smoother and more experienced schmoozer and operator, he might have done a lot more in the way of cosmetic triangulation, rhetorical mollification, and so on to blunt and marginalize opposition to his various schemes.

But then again, his callowness and inexperience were not exactly a huge secret in 2008, so the Dems shouldn't be all that surprised to find they've wound up with a president who galvanizes opponents rather than sidelining them.

As a sidebar to this, one also shouldn't discount how O's lack of experience and legislative know-how led him to simply hand over whole portfolios to the liberal leadership in Congress. When San Fran Nan is visibly driving the train, it's a lock that enormous swaths of the country aren't gonna like where we're headed.

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