Governing First, Elections Second


Will Saletan wrote:

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements.



While I disagree with Saletan on the merits of health care reform, I think his points here are underreported and extremely important. Modern American politics now seems to be more about elections than about governing. Certainly, it’s more about elections than Big Picture governing. (Of course, when one party consistently claims that government is inherently problematic, I suppose that makes perfect sense.)


The transformative legislation that has been passed in the last two years will create long term changes in the US. While some of those changes are currently controversial, how many folks will argue in, say 2015, that they want to get rid of the laundry list of projects, programs and developments embedded in that legislation? Well, how many people want us to get rid of Social Security? Or Medicare? Or the federal interstate system? People may say they hate big government but they sure do like what it provides.


Ultimately, producing valuable results is what people want most from our government and the Obama era has already moved us in that direction. So yes, there is a real chance that Obama will be a one term President. There is also a real chance that in 50 years, he’ll be perceived as the best one term President. Not the trade he’d suggest, but certainly a good one.





BTW- I think Obama has an excellent chance at winning re-election in 2012. He has a great combination of skills for campaigning. He’ll also have an improved economy, the incumbency edge and a long list of sound bite worthy successes. I also believe there will be ‘hate fatigue’ in which many folks will be turned off by the constant barrage of vitriol thrown his way. One of the important lessons of John Kerry’s 2004 race is that the independents who vote in Presidential elections, but not mid-term elections, will be much more likely to vote for someone as opposed to against someone.



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