Why so frustrated, America?

Divided government and partisan polarization have us stuck in a status quo that no one wants. Maybe we need fewer principled stands and more compromises.


For decades, Gallup has been asking people how satisfied they are with “the way things are going in the United States”. As you can see from the graph, results vary. Painting in broad strokes, most people were dissatisfied under President Carter, the country got increasingly more optimistic under Reagan, got discouraged again by Bush the First, were pretty happy by the final days of the Clinton administration, stayed happy for a while, and then became almost unanimously negative by the end of Bush the Second’s administration. Then the graph flattens out: There was an initial bump towards optimism when President Obama took office, but since then satisfaction has been running somewhere in the 20s. [1]

The last time a majority told Gallup they were satisfied was more than 12 years ago, around the time that we captured Saddam Hussein and thought the Iraq War might be over soon.

Ordinarily, you’d expect this level of dissatisfaction to lead to a series of throw-the-bums-out elections, but it hasn’t. Obama won a second term by nearly 5 million votes in 2012. Year after year in Congress, over 90% of incumbents get re-elected. President Obama’s approval rating is over 50%, and the candidate promising to continue most of his policies is far ahead in the polls. A handful of incumbent Republican senators are in trouble, but once again the majority of incumbents in both parties will return to Washington with the apparent mandate of their voters.

So we think things are screwed up, but we don’t seem to be taking it out on anybody in particular. Why not?

Neither party claims the status-quo. In a typical election year, the party in power tells us that things are going pretty well, while the party out of power says that things are bad and we need a change. So there’s a status-quo party and a change party.

The first step towards unraveling our current political mystery is to realize that neither party thinks it represents the status quo. Obama in 2012 didn’t run a stay-the-course campaign, and neither has Clinton in 2016. [2] Neither party’s congressional candidates are telling us that Congress is doing fine, so we should leave them in office to do more of it.

Both major-party presidential candidates talk extensively about the changes they want to make. Trump wants to scrap our trade deals, build a wall on the Mexican border, stop admitting immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries, cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, reduce commitments to our NATO allies, get friendlier with Russia, repeal ObamaCare, repeal the Dodd-Frank rules on Wall Street, and reverse all of President Obama’s executive orders on climate change.

Clinton wants to raise the minimum wage, substantially increase spending on infrastructure, give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, let students graduate from college debt-free, put more restrictions on Wall Street, increase taxes on the wealthy, reverse the Citizens United ruling, end mass incarceration of non-whites, expand and repair ObamaCare, and invest in sustainable energy sources.

So the paradox isn’t that a status-quo-hating electorate keeps voting for the status-quo party and rejecting the change party. It’s that we have two would-be change parties dominating different parts of a divided government. Neither can achieve its vision alone, but they also can’t work together on more-or-less anything. So on issue after issue, the country is stuck in a place that no one likes, but neither side can muster the power to move it somewhere else.

Let’s look at some examples.

No one wants millions of people to keep living in the United States without legal status. The usual estimate says there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants. They have to work under the table, possibly for less than minimum wage or in unsafe or unsanitary conditions — which drags down conditions for any legal worker who competes with them. They are afraid to call the cops if they witness or are the victims of a crime. They are afraid to go to the emergency room if they’re sick, so God help us if there’s an epidemic. They may or may not dare to send their kids to school.

This is a bad situation that neither party likes, but they can’t agree on what to do about it. Throw them all out? Legalize them? Just throw out the “bad hombres”? If you legalize them, can they become citizens or just residents? Will legalization encourage more people to come, or can we prevent that somehow?

Three years ago the Senate, after much wrangling, negotiated a bipartisan compromise and passed it 68-32. And that was the last official action taken. The House has not even held hearings on that bill or any alternative. No one has any idea when or how we might resolve this situation.

No one wants to keep anticipating the next government shutdown. Back in 1974, Congress laid out a sensible budget process that used to produce a product more-or-less on time every year.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Each year the executive branch puts together a budget, which the president submits to Congress by February. Congress then either edits or rewrites it and passes a budget resolution by April 15. The various congressional committees then know how much money they have to work with, so they write 12 separate appropriation bills that spell out the programs in more detail and authorize the Treasury to write checks. Congress passes those bills, maybe with some amendments. The President either signs or vetoes them; if he vetoes, he and the congressional leadership work out their differences promptly, so that all 12 bills get passed and signed in plenty of time for the fiscal year to start on October 1.

There hasn’t been a successful budget process in years. In 2013, the government shut down for a little over two weeks, and we’ve had “fiscal cliffs” and a series of other scary deadlines that usually get met with only hours to spare.

This year’s struggle was comparatively tame: Authorization to keep the lights on past October 1 got passed on September 29. But that wasn’t an annual budget; it just keeps things going until December, when the lame-duck Congress can do it all again.

Nothing is gained by this brinksmanship. Whatever numbers and programs come out of the December negotiations — assuming something does come out of it — could have been agreed to by the end of summer.

No one wants a perpetual budget deficit. Most economists understand that a budget deficit can be useful in shortening a recession or necessary when fighting a war. But no one believes that a large annual deficit should be a permanent feature of the federal budget.

The federal government’s trillion-dollar annual deficits between FY 2009 and FY 2012 were worrying, but maybe not unreasonable as long as they were temporary. By FY2015, the shortfall was down to $438 billion — a number that used to seem stratospheric, but by then looked like progress. But FY2016’s deficit increased to $587 billion and seems to be headed back up. CBO projections have it returning to the trillion-a-year altitude by FY2022. That’s the baseline, and doesn’t assume any extraordinary emergencies. If there’s another major recession or war, the numbers could be much higher.

No one argues that this is a good idea, but (like the mule who starves because he can’t decide which pile of hay to head towards) we are caught between two solutions and end up pursuing neither: Conservatives won’t agree to higher taxes, and liberals won’t agree to spending cuts without higher taxes. So nothing happens, and the deficits continue to build.

No one thinks Medicare is in good financial shape or wants it to go bankrupt. Healthcare inflation has been lower since the Affordable Care Act passed, but Medicare is still expected to run out of money in 2028, when I’ll turn 72. (The Social Security trust fund is expected to hit zero in 2034, but for a variety of reasons that fix should be easier.)

Medicare is an enormously popular program, because no one wants to see themselves or their parents face a choice between death and bankruptcy. And there are many ways to keep it going well past 2028: raise taxes, cut benefits, raise the age of eligibility, or fold it into a larger universal healthcare program with a new funding stream. But we can’t decide which way to go, so the bankruptcy clock continues to tick down.

No one wants to leave Supreme Court seats vacant. The Constitution describes a simple process: the President

shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for

Justice Scalia died in February, and his seat is still unfilled. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March. But the Senate has not seen fit to hold hearings or votes on his nomination, so no one has had to explain to the public why Garland should or shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court.

Senator McCain recently said that the Senate might continue refusing to fill the seat after the election, if Clinton wins. If Trump were to win and Democrats regained control of the Senate, they might feel that turnabout is fair play. So there’s no telling when that seat might be filled, or what will happen if some other justice dies or retires.

Without a new justice, the Court often has a 4-4 deadlock, which leaves lower court rulings intact but does not establish any new national precedents. The longer this goes on, the more issues there are on which the country has no official interpretation of its laws.

You may blame the Senate for not acting, blame President Obama for not nominating someone Senate Republicans like better, or blame both of them for letting their relationship reach this low point. But you can’t argue that this is a good practice or a good outcome.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea well enough to find your own examples.

How did the Republic last this long? When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they were mostly worried about tyranny, so they created a system of checks and balances that kept any one person from having too much power. To get anything done in the Founders’ system, a political leader either needs overwhelming support from the public or has to cooperate with leaders of other parties or factions.

As a result, backdoor deal-making and horse-trading goes back to the beginning of the Republic, as the Hamilton musical makes clear

No one really knows how the game is played,
the art of the trade,
how the sausage gets made.
We just assume that it happens,
but no one else is in the room where it happens.

Hamilton comes out of that room with the votes for his financial plan, and Jefferson gets the national capital located next to Virginia.

We’ve made deals like that all through our history. Henry Clay was known as “the Great Compromiser” for the ways that he kept the slavery issue from wrecking the country. (In retrospect, he delayed the Civil War by several decades.) Think about that: These days it’s an insult to call someone a “compromiser”. We’re all supposed to be people of firm principles, not compromisers — much less “great” ones.

President Eisenhower and Majority Leader Johnson

President Eisenhower and Majority Leader Johnson

When FDR was preparing the country to enter World War II, he didn’t try to run over Republican opposition, he appointed Republicans to be his War Secretary and Navy Secretary — and they accepted.

We’ve had a number of periods of divided government before, and presidents of both parties have worked amicably with congressional opposition leaders, like President Eisenhower with Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, and President Reagan with Tip O’Neill [3]. The historic Clean Air Act of 1970 came out of President Nixon’s cooperation with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.

Traitors and the principle budget. The last such bipartisan pairing was President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich, who managed to shrink the deficit to the point that Clinton could claim a surplus after Gingrich left office. Clinton ended his term not just with a budget surplus, but with low inflation, low unemployment, and the nation at relative peace.

President Bush and Speaker Pelosi never developed such a relationship. Neither did President Obama and Speaker Boehner or Speaker Ryan.

One reason Clinton/Gingrich was the last bipartisan power-pairing is that Clinton is remembered in some circles as having betrayed the Left. Betrayal is a word you hear a lot in our politics these days. Paul Ryan “betrays” conservatism every time he avoids a government shutdown. Bernie Sanders “betrayed” his movement by endorsing Hillary.

Principled, on the other hand, is an entirely good word. We all want to be principled. We admire the man or woman who takes a strong principled stand and refuses to be moved. If we have a choice between framing our positions as good ideas and framing them as principles of the highest order, we choose the later. It just feels stronger and purer.

Here’s the thing, though: We can’t afford too many principled stands. Our system of government isn’t set up that way. It’s set up for people who will take half a loaf and keep the process moving. In our history, we have had one period where principle won out over all other considerations: the Civil War. It was, by many descriptions, a glorious time during which giants walked the Earth. But it was also the fucking Civil War. It was the bloodiest, most destructive period in our history, and the Republic would not have survived if we’d tried something like that more often.

So I want to throw out a radical idea: Rather than trying to found our entire platform on unshakeable principles, we should be giving ourselves a principle budget: Is this the issue we want to be principled about? Is this short list of issues the hill we’re prepared to die on?

By all means, we should have principles and try to do right by them. But at some point we all need to accept a mixture of the things we want and the things our opponents want. The alternative is to wind up with things that nobody wants.


[1] Real Clear Politics averages a lot of polls asking similar questions, and shows a similar result: All through the Obama years, the “on the right track” number has struggled to stay above 30%.

[2] Most of us don’t even remember what a stay-the-course campaign sounds like. But examine some past presidential re-election slogans. War-time presidents Lincoln in 1864 and Roosevelt in 1944 ran on “Don’t swap horses in midstream”. In 1956, Eisenhower edited his 1952 slogan: “I still like Ike.” Reagan in 1984 optimistically claimed “It’s morning again in America”. “Stay the course” was not literally a Nixon slogan in 1972, but he said it a lot. His actual slogan was “Now more then ever”.

But my favorite has to be McKinley in 1900, who ran for re-election under the unbelievably modest: “Leave well enough alone.”

[3] O’Neill’s son wrote in 2012:

No, my father and Reagan weren’t close friends. Famously, after 6 p.m. on quite a few work days, they would sit down for drinks at the White House. But it wasn’t the drinks or the conversation that allowed American government to work. Instead, it was a stubborn refusal not to allow fund-raisers, activists, party platforms or ideological chasms to stand between them and actions — tempered and improved by compromise — that kept this country moving.

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Comments

  • Barb  On October 24, 2016 at 11:02 am

    In the Godfather, when the families were fighting for control of the city there were only a few things that caused them to hunker down and engage in all out war. Other than those few things (often involving the murder of a rival family head) they struck deals of various types that would give everyone something that he wanted so that nobody had to “go to the mattresses,” which meant moving out of your house, sending your wife and children far away, and sleeping on mattresses on the floor to avoid being shot through the window while sleeping in your bed. As a nation we are going to the mattresses way too often. Perhaps we need to read the Godfather again for pointers on how to avoid it in the future…

    • weeklysift  On October 24, 2016 at 11:36 am

      I seldom admit this, but when I was in 9th grade “The Godfather” was my favorite book. I think that was the beginning of strategic thinking for me.

  • Lance A. Brown  On October 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    A handful of incumbent Republican senators are in trouble, but once again the majority of incumbents in both parties will return to Washington with the apparent mandate of their voters.

    Is it an “apparent mandate” or is it “safe districts” created by gerrymandering. Seems like a majority of Congressional districts suffer from some amount of gerrymandering and that massively impacts the power of the voters over their representatives.

    • Alex  On October 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Hmm ,yah, mandate, or “safe seats”?

    • weeklysift  On October 26, 2016 at 6:46 am

      It does. But senate seats aren’t gerrymandered, and incumbents do well in those elections also.

      • pauljbradford  On October 28, 2016 at 10:39 am

        Senate seats aren’t currently gerrymandered, but it’s not obvious to me when reading the 17th amendment that they couldn’t be gerrymandered. I don’t see anything that would prevent a state from dividing itself into two districts and letting each pick a senator.

      • weeklysift  On October 28, 2016 at 10:57 am

        There’s a limit to how effective that can be. A red or blue majority could be gerrymandered into a 1-1 split rather than 2-0, I suppose.

  • SCL  On October 24, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I’m 27 and I have literally never seen the American government work. Clinton got impeached when I was 9 and that is about the first memory of the government I have. After that there was a rigged election, an attack on American soil, and the murder of hundreds of thousands of people in a desert half a world away.

    Then came Obama, and things didn’t get better. The recession ruined the economy, and the only winners since have been banks and corporations. General corruption and ineptitude have spoiled all the change that Obama promised us.

    How can I believe in something when I have never seen it work?

  • busterggi  On October 24, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    That one major party has done nothing but whine & moan for 30 years that the country is going to hell might just be a factor.

    • jh  On October 26, 2016 at 10:52 am

      the same one that passed that stupid legislation that allowed Americans to sue the Saudi government without realizing that it left the US open to similar lawsuits from victims of american aggression? The same one that blamed Obama for not explaining their legislation to them despite his having vetoed it and talking about it on tv and presumably to people in government?

  • cgordon  On October 24, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    “No one wants a perpetual budget deficit.” Well, yes, as a general statement. But some of us think that we should be worrying about employment and inflation, and ignoring the budget deficit.

    https://weeklysift.com/2011/07/18/the-sifted-bookshelf-seven-deadly-innocent-frauds/

    • cgordon  On October 24, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Shouldn’t have said “ignore,” but “accept whatever deficit or surplus it takes to get there.”

    • weeklysift  On October 26, 2016 at 6:54 am

      I wondered if anybody would remember that article. Good to see someone did.

      But independent of whether Mosler’s understanding is true or not, it’s not widely accepted anywhere. There’s not a district in the country where you can say, “I don’t care whether we borrow a trillion dollars every year from now to Doomsday” and hope to get elected.

  • Abby Hafer  On October 24, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    “No one wants millions of people to keep living in the United States without legal status…
    No one wants to keep anticipating the next government shutdown…
    No one wants a perpetual budget deficit…
    No one thinks Medicare is in good financial shape or wants it to go bankrupt…
    No one wants to leave Supreme Court seats vacant…”

    I disagree. I think that there’s a large faction of the Republican party that does want these things. The “starve the beast” Republicans are opposed, essentially, to the government having power. So they are fine with numerous government shutdowns, perpetual budget deficits, would be happy to have Medicaid go bankrupt, and are fine with vacant seats on the Supreme Court if that means that a) they are more likely to get their way than they would be with a new justice who was nominated by a Democrat; or b) it damages the overall respect in which the Supreme Court is held, or makes the court seem weak and therefore less influential. To those who want to dismantle the Federal government, those are all good things. As for undocumented immigrants, the “starve the beast” Republicans really don’t care.

    • Anonymous Poster  On October 26, 2016 at 12:34 am

      A grand irony about this statement: Those who most want the federal government to disappear are, more often than not, dependent on at least one form of government aid—welfare, if you will—in spite of their anti-government position. They’ve been led to believe that the entire federal government is bad, but don’t have the self-awareness to realize how dismantling that government would harm them.

      Not to say there isn’t space to debate just how far the federal government needs to intrude into our lives and what its ultimate purpose should be. But it can’t be as black-and-white as “keep things how they are” and “burn it all down”.

    • jh  On October 26, 2016 at 10:58 am

      It’s a selective starve the beast. This same group has no problem, usually, with military spending or border walls or the war on terror.

    • weeklysift  On October 28, 2016 at 10:59 am

      “no one” may be a bit strong, but I don’t think you could win a primary in either party in any state by coming out openly in favor of these positions.

  • lsnrchrd1  On October 24, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    The Green Party platform is essentially the 1972 Democratic Party platform (the first election I was legally eligible to vote in), and this year for the first time since then — thanks, Bernie — the present Dem platform returns in large part to those policy stances.

    In 1072 the GOP mainstream positions were not what they are now. Since 1980 the GOP platform has steadily tacked ever further right. Picture the 1972 center at 12 on a clock. Seventy percent or so of Democrats settled into position on 11, and seventy percent or so of Republicans sat on 1.

    Since ’80 the GOP national and state leadership shift has moved its ideology steadily farther away from that ’72 center to its current position somewhere maybe just south of 3. Democratic Party New Democrat panic (we have to move right to bring back Reagan-voting Democrats, was the thinking, when they should have told that bunch so long, come back if you ever come to your senses again) resulted in damage to the party formed during the New Deal and shaped again, improved vastly imo, by taking Jim Crow head on and enacting civil rights/Great Society policies. (This week’s New Yorker includes a history of the past 50 years of the two major US political parties that arrived in my email today and I just finished reading).

    The ’80-2016 GOP swerve pulled Dem national leadership to the right, as I mentioned, and the American center went with it. For people who did not go all the way over where the mainstream Republicans are right now, the center moved on that 1972 clock from 12 over to 1:30 at most, and now this group is trying to return to where they used to be.

    All of this is to say that compromise beginning in Jan 2017 and beyond is problematic, and not just because there will likely be a Red House/Blue Senate at loggerheads.

    Compromise in Washington for 36 straight flippin’ years has meant giving ground from 12 o’clock ever closer over to 3 pm. Compromise next year, by Democrats, almost certainly has to mean further concessions, a further shift to the right, a move closer to 3 o’clock than where we are now. Or, it means the GOP stopping its rightward drift in its tracks, immediately, and beginning to concede territory acquired over the past 3 1/2 decades on a consistent and regular basis until the center is back at 12 and the party mainstream parks itself back on the 1.

    The world is changing ever faster, and the GOP wants everyone to behave as if it is 1870 again, both in societal arrangements and pace of life. This is simply not sustainable. Climate change coupled with increasing population presents humanity with an existential threat which can only be exceeded by the massive launch and detonation of nuclear devices. There is policy necessary to stave off imminent civilizational collapse which needed to be enacted and implemented two to three decades ago, and the GOP anti-science/anti-education/theological dominion mindset is not only insufficiently nimble to keep pace with rapidly increasing environmental rate of negative change, it has zero capacity to conceive of or even embrace proactive mitigation, let alone simply acknowledging the reality of our current ongoing environmental calamity.

    The contemporary American GOP mindset is simply not a likely evolutionary fit for survival in current conditions. Relatively quick change of this mindset is anything but humanly impossible, of course, if the people in possession of it choose to let go of it. This, unfortunately, is not a simple thing for the ideologue whose ideology is rooted in emotional commitment to the virtue, ne necessity, of obedience.

    Among those Americans who possess the contemporary conservative mindset are more than enough who have the capacity to inflict even more ruin, as a result of this ideology more suited to any past era than the present or likely any future, than has already occurred and is yet to manifest, as outcomes resulting from past actions (meaning the plants & animals which will not escape extinction from concentrated atmospheric CO2 and MH4, and those people still living who will prematurely lose their lives as a result of the same thing, and this does not even address the suffering of survivors adversely impacted by these extremely negative environmental outcomes).

    It’s late, I’m tired, I’ll see heaps of mistakes and poor writing tomorrow.

    • 1mime  On October 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      Read this reply tomorrow. Let’s stop worrying so much about what the Republicans might do and focus on what Democrats can and should do. I’m tired of all the nay saying. Pres. Obama is going to lead a major effort next year following transfer of power to re-build and expand the Democratic Party organization from the ground up. Sort of a Democratic “BLUEMAP” as a counter to Republicans REDMAP. Let’s beat them at their own game! Enough grousing and worry – game.on!

  • ARob  On October 25, 2016 at 12:54 am

    The far more cynical slogan for Nixon’s re-election was, “Why change dicks in the middle of a screw? Vote for Nixon in ’72.”

    • weeklysift  On October 26, 2016 at 6:49 am

      I heard that rhyme in 72, but not from any actual Nixon voters.

  • ccyager  On October 25, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    My sense this year especially is that we’re seeing a lot of politicians more concerned about self-interest than the interests of the country. It seems that the days of true governing are gone. The last 8 years have been dominated by Obama trying to get things done for the country and Congress standing in his way because…because…because…why? They don’t like him? They don’t like Democrats? If they think they can do better, why haven’t they proposed alternatives. I am especially disgusted with the Senate not doing its job regarding the Supreme Court nominee. If I didn’t do my job at work, I’d be fired. How come they get to stay?

    • Anonymous Poster  On October 26, 2016 at 12:41 am

      Therein lies the frustration: The Republicans—or the ones in Congress, at least—care more about appearing principled and defiant so their voting base can feel the same way about their political beliefs. (“I stood against Obama when he wanted [x], and I did it for you!”)

      Republicans have spent years, maybe even decades, telling their base that the government is evil and “too big” and needs a good dismantling. They’ve told the GOP voting base to distrust government (unless the GOP is in charge). Is it any wonder, then, that said base sees the current state of government as “this shit needs to burn”?

      For all the problems with liberal/progressive politics (too much of a focus on identity politics, a shared unwillingness to compromise), at least those who lean left—and have a viable political career—aren’t saying “the government is basically Satan”.

      • lsnrchrd1  On October 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

        I agree with the opinion you posted. An article I read a bit earlier this evening expands (I’m not sure this is the best descriptive term, but it is the only one which comes to mind right now) upon your conclusion with some significant historical economic policy history. It is long, but IMO quite well worth the read.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/

      • ryanpaige  On October 26, 2016 at 3:31 pm

        I think about the Republican response to Obamacare. Their constant promise is to ‘repeal every word’ of the law, but there are many things within the bill that are extremely popular among a large majority of the population. And even though there’s never been an actual GOP plan to replace Obamacare, many Republicans have cited things that are in Obamacare that they’d like to have as part of their replacement.

        So why repeal every word?

        If you support things within the law, then a compromise was/is the way to go. Because the only reason to repeatedly say that you’re going to ‘repeal every word’ of Obamacare is because you take the kneejerk position that everything that Obama is for, you’re defiantly against.

        If Republicans engaged in a compromise toward Obamacare, they could save the parts both parties like and potentially get something that they support that Democrats don’t (Granted, the GOP got some concessions while still voting against the original bill, but that won’t work today when amending the law).

        But trying to repeal every word not only makes the other side dig in, but it makes the principle seem misguided since they then claim to support certain provisions of the law and, in effect saying, I support this, and we should vote to get rid of it.

  • ryanpaige  On October 26, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    It seems like our past few presidents have been interested in compromise. President Bush was willing to compromise on immigration reform and supported the compromise immigration reform bill of 2007 that was introduced to the Senate by Harry Reid. It never got to a vote. And John Roberts got a bunch of Democratic votes for confirmation (Alito didn’t get it so easy). And Medicare Part D, heavily supported by President Bush, wouldn’t have passed without Democratic support in Congress. And McCain-Feingold had mostly Democratic support but couldn’t have passed without Republican support (and Bush’s signature).

    President Obama reached across the aisle many times, including with health care reform (Obamacare, as many people have noted, was very similar to Massachusett’s heath care reform that won bipartisan support in that state) and with entitlement reform, as well as with spending cuts. Even the stimulus was packed with many tax cuts to try to get Republican support. He faced criticism for watering down his proposals to try to gain Republican support that never came.

  • Roger Green  On October 30, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Off topic, you need to change your Who am I profile, that describes you as a 50-something,

Trackbacks

  • By Well enough | The Weekly Sift on October 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

    […] week’s featured post is “Why so frustrated, America?” And in view of recent claims about “rigged” elections, I want to flash back to […]

  • By How Populism Goes Bad | The Weekly Sift on January 9, 2017 at 10:30 am

    […] more tangled as polarization has increased. Back in October, I listed a series of situations where the country is stuck in a status quo that nobody wants: millions of undocumented immigrants living off the books, a budget process that yields perpetual […]

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