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Can Democrats Govern

Can Democrats Govern

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Published by T M Copeland
Political essay that asks the essential question whether the Democratic party and president Bbama are capable of governing the nation.
Political essay that asks the essential question whether the Democratic party and president Bbama are capable of governing the nation.

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Published by: T M Copeland on Mar 01, 2010
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03/01/2010

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Can Democrats govern? After a full year of the Obama administration this is becomingthe essential question. It is no longer question of what health care reform will look like,whether the stimulus plan is working, whether adoption of the Bush war policy was theright decision, what a jobs bill should look like or any other specific policy question. Now, the central, crucial question is can the Democratic Party govern this nation?For many, if not most citizens, regardless of how they feel about the issue, the answer will come in a few weeks. It will be determined by whether or not the Congress can passsomething that remotely resembles health care reform. It doesn't matter whether it is whatthe country needs in the way of health care reform. It matters now only that it appear to be health care reform.I was not for President Obama during the primaries. However, like all Americans, save,maybe, the Limbaugh insaniacs, I was caught up in the wonder of his election and wascertain he would be a good president, maybe even a great one. I now hope that he provesto be at least an adequately mediocre one.He arrived in office with huge majorities in both houses of Congress. He wasextraordinarily popular and enjoyed the good will of vast majorities of Republicans aswell as Democrats and independents. His opposition, save a few crazies, were cowed intosilence and/or ineffectual bitching. The path to a historic "one hundred days" was open.Had the President come to town having some idea of what he wanted to accomplish hecould have achieved much of it in the first months of his administration. Had he chosento do so, he could have accomplished a great deal before his political opposition couldregroup and revive.Unfortunately, accept for implementing the bidding of the Wall Street bankers, PresidentObama did nothing during this time. He refused to lead and allowed the nation to driftand the far right to become relevant again.The far right did not become relevant because they proposed ideas that will work. Nor..did they reassert their political potency with new ideas for dealing with the nation's ills.They were able to reassert themselves because they took hard, rigid stands that, juxtaposed to the dithering of President Obama made them appear to be leaders.I hear there is a great deal of anger among Congressional Democrats, anger aimed at thePresident. That anger is fully justifiable. The President has lead his party into a proverbial"box canyon." The Party is faced now with the necessity of voting for a health carereform bill that may not be a reform bill. For many people, a new health care bill maymake things much worse than they are now. At best, the universal benefits to be gainedfrom whatever the Congress can pass and send to the President (There is no certainty theCongress can pass anything.), will not take effect for many years while the costsassociated with provision of those benefits will begin almost immediately.The President has sent the Congressional Democrats into this "box canyon" where theyhave a choice of passing nothing, this will result in the Party fighting the midterm
 
election with a track record of incompetence, and passing a major reform that appears, atleast, to do far more harm than good.The Democratic Party has been brought to this place, this alter of non-partisanship, to besacrificed, slaughtered like a fatted calf.The single thing George Bush understood that absolutely eludes President Obama is theimpossibility of being a non-partisan President. If you are a Senator or Congressman youcan, occasionally, cast non-partisan votes on this or that issue. You can do this becauseyou are only one of many who are your equal in constitutional authority. If you are the president, you are THE President. Unless a President is schizophrenic, being only onehuman, he or she is partisan in whatever decision made for that decision becomes thePresident's policy. Further, Congress cannot lead the nation, only the President can dothat. If a President refuses to lead, particularly if he refuses to do so on the primary issue,the defining issue of his administration, he is lost and the nation drifts.It is perfectly OK for a president to lose. It is not OK for the President to abdicateleadership. President Obama, has repeatedly refused to lead this nation on the marqueeissue of health care reform. This is all the more troubling as it was he who made healthcare the marquee issue. Having done so, President Obama had an obligation to the nationand to history to define what health care reform is and demand its adoption as law. Heneed not succeed. He could lose and not be lost. What he could not do, but has doneanyway, is dither. He could not ask Congress to define the issue, allowing commercialinterests and his opposition to define it, or in this case, bog it down in fuzzy definitionsand irrelevancies. Yet, this is precisely what the president has done.I do not know whether there is time for the President to grow into his job. Much the samesort of overawed dithering happened in the early days of President Carters and PresidentClinton's administrations. In President Carter's case, he was never able to recover. InPresident Clinton's case, he was.I am somewhat despondent. President Obama seems much more reflective and prone toover think things, like President Carter. He does not appear to possess that almost feralinstinct that saved Clinton.I hope this is wrong. I hope he will understand the lesson of the ride to Israel on Air Force One. President Clinton imposed a strict policy of requiring Newt Gingrich to stayin his seat. On that trip, in the middle of the budget crisis that shut down large parts of thegovernment, President Clinton behaved as the President and imposed his will on theSpeaker. All Speaker Gingrich could do was whine to the public about the treatmentmaking himself look silly and self important and Clinton look Presidential.President Obama cannot afford any more embarrassing episodes like the "health caresummit." He succeeded only in elevating the Republicans in the eyes of the public anddiminishing himself and the Presidency. Whatever the President chooses to do now, heneeds to announce it and proceed. Whoever in his own Party or any other who wants to

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