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[T]the fact that Barack Obama now so appreciates the limits of his office and his lack of Jedi powers is rich with irony. As I’ve written about before, the premise of Obamaism— from his famous convention speech in 2004, through his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton, in 2008, right up until the later half of his first term—was that Obama was a politician uniquely suited to transform American politics by breaking through the polarization in Washington and bringing the two parties together.
Obama’s theme of post-partisanship and unity as a substitute for political ideology has always had its critics. Sean Wilentz, writing in The New Republic, in 2011, noted that:
Obama had arrived on the national stage, after all, with his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 proclaiming that there was “not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America.”
As president, Obama would not only reach across the aisle, listen to the Republicans, and credit their good ideas, but also demonstrate that the division between the parties was exaggerated if not false, as many Americans, younger voters above all, fervently believed. Divisive and hot-tempered partisanship would give way to healing and temperate leadership, not least by means of Obama’s eloquence, rational policies, and good faith.
Needless to say, that didn’t happen. In reviewing the history of the politics of post-partisanship, Wilentz argues that Presidents who have used post-partisanship as merely a rhetorical device have been more successful than those who truly believed in the idea.
Needless to say indeed. But it was said, repeatedly by me and others.
I think this post captured what I was saying pretty well:
[T]he question is do [the High Broderists] really believe a President Obama will be able to wave a magic wand and make the Republicans play nice? And if not, how exactly do they expect a President Obama to achieve change?
One of the major changes I think we have seen in President Obama since August 2011 (the debt ceiling crisis debacle) is his acceptance that the Post Partisan Unity Schtick failed. We have seen a President willing to engage in the battle of ideas instead of trying to be the referee.
Will this reap dividends in his second term? Perhaps not, but it certainly puts the ideas in a better political position in the future, be it in this term or Presidential terms to follow.