I don’t really get how if you’re a Democrat running for president and you want to be a great one (as I imagine they all do), you get the notion that the way to do that is through bipartisanship. Setting aside Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for the moment, in the last 100 years you have exactly two periods of this, the last two years of Woodrow Wilson’s second term and the last two of Harry Truman’s first term. Both times it was really, really bad. Wilson fought Republicans so hard on the League of Nations that he had a stroke, though it’s pretty fair to blame much of that on Wilson himself. During the divided period under Truman Taft-freaking-Hartley passed over his veto. Both periods were pretty much the same in terms of Congressional Republicans blocking virtually all of the president’s domestic priorities, though in Truman’s case they did work with him on foreign policy. At any rate, it was pretty much “Hell no!” both times. Clinton was perhaps a little different in that he actually did get a lot of wins from negotiating with Republicans, but that was because he was willing to accept a number of right-wing ideas in order to make himself more popular. Theoretically this was supposed to trickle down to Democrats in general but it never really did. After all, they were one of the sides he was triangulating from.

Look, I’m not here to make the case that Bill Clinton was a horrible president whose true horribleness only became obvious years after he left office because we’ve done that many times before. Why I am here is to make a simple point, which is that there really is zero precedent for a Democratic president to convince a Republican Congress to substantially adopt a center-left program. Just none. Democrats have historically been willing to deal with Republican presidents to advance a center-right program but that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

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  1. vjack says:

    When it comes to effective political opposition, the Republican Party seems far better than the Democratic Party. When it comes to actually governing, the opposite would appear to be true. But yes, I have yet to see a Republican Congress go along with a Democratic president in the way you describe.

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