Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If Washington is broken, how come the Democrats passed so much of their agenda?

Barack Obama likes to travel around moaning about how broken Washington is. What he's ignoring, as Rich Lowry points out, is that his party controls two branches of government. They got their major initiatives crammed through despite public opposition.
In the midterm of its discontent, the Obama administration has become a long catalog of ex cuses.

It seems everything would be going swimmingly if Washington weren't so irredeemably broken. In a revelatory interview with President Obama and his aides about what went wrong, Peter Baker of The New York Times reports that this White House constantly complains that Washington is not "on the level," that "the whole Washington culture is not serious about solving problems."

If your party has the White House, 59 Senate seats and 255 House seats, though, for all intents and purposes it is Washington. The Obama Democrats have completed a period of surpassing legislative mastery.

They got a 1,073-page stimulus bill, a 2,409-page health-care bill and a 2,319-page financial-reform bill. That's 5,801 pages in just three pieces of legislation, at a very conservative cumulative estimated cost of $1.9 trillion over 10 years. If this is what Obama's broken Washington produces in three bills, what would a functioning one do?

For all their reputation as obstructionists, Republicans weren't able to stop any of this. Unlike in the early Clinton years, Republicans aren't benefiting from obstructionism so much as from failing to block a president's deeply unpopular priorities. Washington worked for Obama -- and now he's paying the price.

Much of Washington's alleged brokenness is the fractiousness inherent to a democratic system, not to mention to human nature. We had poisonous dissension in the nation's capital before we had political parties and before the capital even moved to Washington. In that sense, Washington was "broken" before it was Washington.

At bottom, Obama's problem is with the American public: If his approval rating were 10 points higher, no one would be complaining about the political process. On his unpopularity, Obama has two excuses that make for a noxious combination of self-regard and condescension.
So Obama has to flail around and commit sociological analysis of the American people in order to explain why Americans just don't seem to like all the wonderful things that Democratic politicians claim that they've done for us. Since he can't conceive of rational explanations for people opposing him, it must be due to our irrational fears and the fault of broken Washington. But he is Washington. His party is Washington. Perhaps his problem is his own false consciousness.