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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Forecast: More Gridlock Ahead

Jamelle Bouie’s post, “Why the next four years might be more of the same” at Greg Sargent’s ‘Plumline’ sketches a fairly discouraging scenario for the remainder of President Obama’s term. As Bouie explains:

…None of the incentives have changed for Republicans, meaning they still have no reason to cooperate with the President. In other words: The next four years may be largely the same as the last four.
The GOP’s current behavior is out of sync with the public’s priorities, as expressed in the election, where solid majorities reelected President Obama and sent more Democrats to the Senate. But that likely won’t matter to Republicans, because the odds are good that in the end they won’t incur public discontent for failing to cooperate. As the latest ABC News/Washington Post survey shows, there’s a strong disconnect between how Americans view the president, and how they view the question of whether he has a mandate to carry out his agenda.

And despite President Obama’s otherwise impressive poll numbers, “56 percent say Obama does not have “a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the presidential campaign,” but rather should “compromise on things the Republicans strongly oppose” in the latest WaPo/ABC News survey, reports Bouie.
Bouie faults the public’s lazy assumption that “If both sides support something, it’s probably good. But if one side vocally opposes a measure, there must be something suspect — either the policy is bad, or the other side is not trying to meet the concerns of the offended party.” Further,

Congressional Republicans use this dynamic to great effect during Obama’s first term, and successfully portrayed his administration as hopelessly partisan. But this also has important implications for the next year of policy making. Republicans still want to weaken Obama’s presidency, and so the basic dynamic of his first term is still in effect. Take, for instance, immigration reform. If Obama tackles immigration reform from the left — or even the center — he will receive significant Republican pushback, if only because presidents polarize disputes they step into. And the mere fact of that pushback may sour the public on his package, even if they’re sensible reforms.

If Bouie is right, however, this will likely firm up the Latino vote for Democrats. And there may be a limit to how much more Republican obstruction the public can stomach, before it becomes obvious that GOP unwillingness to compromise is the real problem. But it seems likely that Bouie is correct that the Republicans will test the outer limits of public tolerance.

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