Americans love to complain about gridlock in Washington and partisan warfare between presidents and Congress. Yet the record suggests that unified party government is no panacea.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to bring change to Washington and apost-partisan,non-ideological approach to governing. In his firstpostelection press conference on November 7, he reiterated this hope: “I know we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and politics and work together as one nation.”
These snowflakes of soothing rhetoric drift slowly down on a Capitol Hill power plant fueled by partisanship and politics. What will happen when the snow hits thefurnace—where majority Democrats and their allied interest groups have long been denied their wishes by Republican presidents and Congresses? The question is not whether President Obama can forge anextrapolitical national consensus to solve problems, but how effectively he will be able to govern with his own party in the majority inCongress.
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Donald R. Wolfensberger is director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center and author of Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial (2000). His 28-year career as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives culminated in his position as chief of staff of the House Rules Committee.more from this author >>