Green Room

The Party of Finger-Pointing

posted at 10:37 am on November 16, 2010 by

It was the 1880s, and Woodrow Wilson was depressed.

The academic had not seen his party hold the White House since the 1860s. Since the end of the Civil War, the Democrats had been in the political wilderness. Wilson was a Ph.D. candidate in history and political science, so he decided to do some soul searching to discover why the Democratic party had lost the support of the American people. The results of his research?

The Democrats weren’t wrong…the government was just broken..

We are the first Americans to hear our own countrymen ask whether the Constitution is still adapted to serve the purposes for which it was intended; the first to entertain any serious doubts about the superiority of our own institutions as compared with the systems of Europe; the first to think of remodeling the administrative machinery of the federal government, and of forcing new forms of responsibility upon Congress.

This is a familiar refrain, often sung by the Democrats: our policies aren’t the problem – those who wrote the founding documents of this country created a system that is just too darn hard for a president or Congress to negotiate. So, so unfair.

Then Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected president, and suddenly…Wilson regained his faith in the American system. America was governable again! Sixteen years later, Wilson was elected president and promptly forgot every political theory he once espoused. Out? Cynicism about the government. In? Fascism progressive government.

It was April 1980, and Lloyd Cutler was depressed.

The counsel to President Jimmy Carter had watched Congress and the American people turn on the president he served. Like Wilson, he decided to do some soul searching to discover why the Democratic party had lost support. The results of his research?

Once again…

A particular shortcoming in need of a remedy is the structural inability of our government to propose, legislate, and administer a balanced program for governing. In parliamentary terms one might say under the U.S. Constitution it is not now feasible to ‘form a government.’ The separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches, whatever its merits and 1793, has become a structure that almost guarantees stalemate today. As we wonder why we are having such a difficult time making decisions we all know must be made and projecting our power and leadership, we should reflect on whether this is one big reason.

Shockingly, Cutler lost his cynicism by 1994, when he served as counsel to President Bill Clinton.

It is 2010, and here we are again.

A young Democrat president who ran on a platform of hope and change just had his domestic policies repudiated by the American people in a midterm election. His recent diplomatic efforts have not been successful. Once again, the opportunity to do some soul searching and discover why the Democrats have lost favor with the American people presents itself. A national political reporter researches the issue. His conclusion?

The issue is not President Obama. The presidency is just too darned hard.

Can any single person fully meet the demands of the 21st-century presidency? Obama has looked to many models of leadership, including FDR and Abraham Lincoln, two transformative presidents who governed during times of upheaval. But what’s lost in those historical comparisons is that both men ran slim bureaucracies rooted in relative simplicity. Neither had secretaries of education, transportation, health and human services, veterans’ affairs, energy, or homeland security, nor czars for pollution or drug abuse, nor televisions in the West Wing constantly tuned to yammering pundits. They had bigger issues to grapple with, but far less managing to do. “Lincoln had time to think,” says Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. “That kind of downtime just doesn’t exist anymore.”

So the issue is that Obama doesn’t have any downtime?

News to me.

This is an unfortunate pattern for the Democrat party. They have repeatedly refused to engage in any meaningful self-reflection in defeat. Their losses are far too often blamed on anything other than their own failure to govern in a way that reflects the will of the American people. When their policies are rejected by voters, the country suddenly becomes ‘ungovernable’ or the presidency becomes too much for one person to accomplish. To the latter argument, I offer a simple rebuttal:

Ronald Reagan somehow found the time to run the country and deal with the Soviet threat, and survived an assassination attempt. His was not an easy presidency, but it was, overall, a successful one. When Reagan was in office, the president never asked whether the job was too hard, or whether the country had become ungovernable. They didn’t have to.

The presidency is a difficult job and this country demands quite a bit from its presidents. Perhaps it is time for the Democrats to demand more from their candidates.

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When you point your fingers coz your plans fell through
You got three more fingers pointin back at you, yeah
–Dire Straits, the band

Say no more!
–Eric Idle of Monty Python in the “Nudge Nudge” sketch.

either orr on November 16, 2010 at 10:56 AM

When Reagan was in office, the president never asked whether the job was too hard

Job too Hard? It is said that Reagan slept through Cabinet meetings. I know I would.

Skandia Recluse on November 16, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Lincoln had down time? Lichtman is clueless. Lincoln was besieged by office visitors on a daily basis. He spent hours every day listening to the complaints and requests for favors of ordinary citizens who could walk in off the street to talk to him. Meahwhile, he had an enormous war to fight, the outcome of which would determine the survival of the Union, all the while handling all of the other minutiae of running a country. And he had exactly two staffers to help him. Two. Furthermore, he had to help take care of a young son who was dying and a manic-depressive wife. Yeah, Lincoln had all kinds of down time. It was a 24-hour vacation being the president in 1861.

WarEagle01 on November 16, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Perhaps it is time for the Democrats to demand more from their candidates.

Hmmmm…

Nah.

Bruno Strozek on November 16, 2010 at 12:39 PM

A job too big for its current incumbent.

Mason on November 16, 2010 at 12:45 PM

If they federal government would quit trying to takeover every aspect of our lives and control everything we do, it could concentrate on it’s prime directive … protecting liberty.

darwin on November 16, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Progressive vs. Oppressive

Which is a better term for our socialist friends?

Merriam-Webster: Oppressive
1 : unreasonably burdensome or severe
2 : tyrannical
3 : overwhelming or depressing to the spirit or senses

Merriam-Webster: Tyrannical: being or characteristic of a tyrant or tyranny

Merriam-Webster: Tyrant: an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution

Progressive means the same thing, except that it sounds better

So follow along folks:

A Tyrant does not believe In the limits of Constitutional government – things like restricting free speech, the right of self defense and having to respect those silly ideas on property rights.

A government with unlimited power soon becomes Tyrannical – in other words: Oppressive.

Chip on November 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Why should we expect anything else from a Party driven by an “other-directed” ideology – no one does anything because they want to; they do it because they are driven by circumstances, their environment, or pressure from others in the community – that says no one needs to accept personal responsibility for anything they do.
Rep Rangel can walk out of a Congressional Hearing because he doesn’t have a lawyer – it wasn’t his fault he spent all the money he stole on his previous representation.
The President doesn’t need to look at what he did wrong – after all, that thought never occurred to him – he only needs to look at the Bible and gun clutching ingrates that didn’t understand him.
Poor, poor Barack!

Frank_D on November 16, 2010 at 2:09 PM

The progressives’ problem with the founding documents and separation of powers highlights both their elitist belief system and the resulting totalitarian bent.

Their repeated attempts to undermine our system of government would at a minimum disqualify them from any leadership positions, if not for an allied and corrupt legacy media.

ontherocks on November 16, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Can any single person fully meet the demands of the 21st-century presidency?

Not any of the progressive democrats can.

tinkerthinker on November 16, 2010 at 2:57 PM

I think we can dub this the Barbie Presidency.

steveegg on November 16, 2010 at 4:33 PM

With regard to President Reagan, I seem to remember that he came in, delegated power to his cabinet and allowed them to act on their own initiative. And I also seem to remember that he was roundly criticized for trusting them so much and not micromanaging them.

Stegall Tx on November 17, 2010 at 8:57 AM