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Back to Obama no puede con el bipartidismo

Alejandro Navas, Professor of Sociology, University of Navarra, Spain

Obama can't handle bipartisanship

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 08:46:26 +0000 Published in The Basque Newspaper

In an interesting article published in the March issue of the magazine 'The New York Review of Books', Elizabeth Drew wonders whether Obama's health reform will manage to survive. And in analyzing the reasons for the Republican civil service examination to the new president's star project , she denounces Obama's naiveté and lightness, who in his electoral campaign announced a policy capable of uniting Democrats and Republicans in projects of national interest. Part of the dream he promised was a new way of governing, above party quarrels, which would restore the illusion to a citizenry disappointed and demoralized by the Bush presidency.

After a long year of presidency, Obama and his team realize with surprise and resignation that it is one thing to preach and quite another to give wheat, and that reality has very little to do with dreams, even if they are those of the most powerful man on the planet. The ideological differences between the Democratic and Republican parties were supposed to be almost irrelevant, especially if we compare these parties with the European political formations, apparently much more ideologically charged. Moreover, traditional American pragmatism would underline the preponderance of centrist approaches: that is where the majority of the population is located and, therefore, where the elections are played.

Reality is correcting these clichés of political sociology. American society appears today more polarized than ever, and the center is depopulating at great speed. At the same time, the vote has become very volatile. Polls and election results recorded over the last few months confirm that many voters not affiliated with the traditional parties are rapidly turning their backs on Obama, moved by disinterest, disappointment and even indignation at the course adopted by his management. This process was a foregone conclusion: Obama was not going to obtain unlimited support from groups with conflicting interests; one cannot promise everything to everyone and expect their support when the government has to start making decisions that provoke dissatisfaction from one or the other.

After the painful loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat, polls predict a severe defeat for the Democrats in next November's congress and Senate elections. An 'every man for himself' atmosphere is beginning to prevail. Prominent Democratic senators are announcing, for example, that they will not run for re-election; among them, Evan Bayh, who even sounded like candidate for vice-president. Senator Bayh has justified his Withdrawal with the partisanship that has crept into Washington, which increasingly prevents the achievement of majorities in favor of reasonable policies. The Senate used to be known as a kind of club where partisan membership counted for very little, because the best interest of serving the nation was paramount. This is no longer the case: here too, partisan fronts are clearly marked, and party strategy prevails over national interests. At the same time, both parliamentary groups are becoming increasingly homogeneous: both the moderate-liberal group of the Republicans and the conservative wing of the Democrats are tending to become extinct.

Scott McClellan, President Bush's former spokesman, has just published a book in which he recounts his experience and laments the fact that politics in Washington is practiced as if it were a war. All the protagonists lament this, in public and in private, but almost no one does anything about it. It is a pity that this is happening precisely when the country is facing an economic crisis and other formidable challenges that should require a coordinated effort by all.