Thursday, February 4, 2010

Obama and the Opposition

I have read many articles as of late bemoaning (or rejoicing) in Obama’s inability to pass legislation.

The standard response from the right is that Obama and Rham Emanuel (specifically brought in as a legislative enforcer) are incompetent and that their policies don’t reflect the real sentiment of the voters. This is true on some level. The health care reform legislation is very unpopular even if some aspects of it appeal to most voters and has turned toxic on the democratic party. America is a also center right nation.

The standard response from the left seems to be the Republicans are the Party of “no” and have banded together to squash Obama. The gravy for this charge seems is either the racially flavored (republicans don’t like black people) or populist (republicans are in the pockets of the corporations). As with the conservative explanation, this one has some, all be it less merit. Republicans have banded together in a fairly uniform block to oppose the president however I don’t believe its for the more nefarious reasons given above. Some of it is standard loyal opposition type stuff and some is ideological. Special interests dominate both parties and I am sure on some specific legislation it does play a factor.

I believe that Obama’s lack of executive experience coupled with the environment his political career was incubated in is more to blame: The Cook County Democratic machine

Ironically enough, this actually attracted some voters to Obama. They believed that experience operating within a big time political machine would some how “toughen” an inexperienced junior senator.

Take Charles Kaiser from the Hillman Foundation:

I always thought the fact that Obama was the product of the Chicago Democratic machine was one of the most appealing parts of his resume–because it made it plausible that this freshman Senator could be strong enough to become an effective president.
What Kaiser doesn’t realize is machine politics is more like a family unit: you may have disagreements and feuds, but at the end of the day everyone has a similar perspective on things and you all have the same agenda. Differences are always tactical and very seldom ideological. The machine runs everything in government and there really is no organized effective political opposition.

You maintain your place in the machine by bribing key demographics with cushy city jobs, nepotism, government contracts and generous concessions to allied unions. They in turn provide political muscle, votes, intimidation campaigns, and share in the machine’s plundering of the taxbase. Machines like this tend to operate in urban areas for reasons of demographics. The average white urbanite is a liberal who will always vote democrat no matter what. Minorities vote democrat because they have been successfully corralled in a different kind of plantation by their new overseers. Combine that with the union vote, government employees, dependants and no effective opposition and it gives you a recipe for perpetual one party domination.

This is the environment Obama acquired his skills as a political operator in. His much ballyhooed “bi-partisanship” consisted of cosponsoring some legislation with Tom Coburn. He has never had to operate in an environment where there was not only political opposition but ideological opposition. And unlike the democratic machine in cook county, the national democratic party has very striking ideological fissures in it. They aint all Nancy Pelosies and Henry Waxmans.

What about his time in the US Senate working with opposition there, surely he learned from his experience there? Not hardly, he was there for what, 6 months before he went into campaign mode?

His lack of experience in dealing with organized opposition explains his ineffectiveness. All his talk of bipartisanship is bullshit because he thought having a large majority in both houses would allow him to Rahm anything he wanted through.

Having operated in a bubble his whole life, Obama now founders when removed from his comfort zone.

The results of the 2010 midterms are going to be really interesting.