The last two times I remember this happening -- with Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and New York City Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s -- it at least took a few years for exasperated establishment media liberals to blame the system for a favored politician's difficulties in achieving his agenda, and to call the country and Gotham, respectively, "ungovernable." Afterwards, Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani proved the whiners spectacularly wrong.
Matt Yglesias at Think Progress is years ahead of those prior hand-wringers. A bit less than 11 months into the Obama administration, the Think Progress blogger considered by many to be one of the far left's opinion leaders is moaning about how tough it has recently become to get anything done. Poor baby.
As Obama's poll numbers plunge, and statist health care comes down to final pre-Christmas votes, Yglesias reprises the lament that the system is the problem (HT Instapundit and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air):
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.
.... We’re suffering from an incoherent institutional set-up in the senate. You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
Yglesias's claim is a real hoot, given that 60 Democratic senators can basically do whatever they want if they all manage to agree. Yet he vents his spleen in unexcerpted material over Mitch McConnell's behavior.
On a historical note, progressives, the precursors of today's liberals, got their way a century ago when they said that the Senate needs to be changed. The Founders' design of the Senate as representatives selected by state legislatures was superseded by the 17th amendment, which mandated their direct election. This eventually resulted in the nationalization of nearly every senatorial election as interest groups outside senators' home states largely became their election financiers. It's hard to see how this is an improvement over the Founders' original set-up.
Regardless of one's view of the 17th Amendment, Yglesias's angst over how it's working now is more than a little tiresome. The difficulty of getting things done didn't seem to bother Yglesias when Bush 43 was trying to get judges confirmed, or when initiatives Yglesias more than likely opposed like drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve failed. But now that things aren't going his way automatically, "smart elements," a term which apparently include arrogant elitists like him and excludes anyone who doesn't simply roll over to their obvious intellectual superiority, have decided that the way things are set up needs to change. Oh the humanity.
What Yglesias is missing, of course, is that during the presidential campaign Barack Obama attempted to position himself as a moderate to the general public while mouthing far-left articles of faith when out of earshot. Thanks to a compliant press, which ignored overwhelming evidence of radicalism in so many areas, from his voting record to his cast of mentors and sponsors, a large enough portion of the general public never got past the David Axelrod-created image to get Obama across the finish line a year ago in November.
Yglesias apparently expected the radical transformation of government that Obama promised true believers on the left without a meaningful challenge. Even though he won't acknowledge it, what he wanted is largely what we've gotten until very, very recently -- trillion-dollar debts, private company nationalizations, and all.
Now that the bloom is off the president's rose, it looks like Obama's success and the electability of members of his party may very well depend on whether they start doing what the American people want them to do, and stop trying to force things the people don't want down their throats. The president and the Democrats in Congress seem congenitally unable to do that, and could face dire electoral consequences if they don't. No wonder Yglesias is so bothered.
It will probably not be long before we see sentiments like Yglesias's make their way into establishment media commentary, news analysis, and even hard-news reporting.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.