Monday, March 8, 2010

Diffusion of Power

Ben Smith passes along this note from a "prominent Chicago Democrat":

First, court intrigue is the way of politics in Chicago and Illinois.

Second, Ax's -- and to a degree Obama's -- problem is that they aren't used to governance that requires multi-party and intra-party skills, where the chief executive isn't in absolute control of all levers of government. The "Chicago Way" is profoundly misunderstood. It isn't, first and foremost, about bullying politics; it's about absolute control and the means to achieve it. The "Chicago Way" would never work in DC, and I believe their frame of reference doesn't allow them to see DC otherwise.

Absolute control has often served as a key goading mirage for presidents. If only they could achieve it, if only they could impose their will upon the whole of the United States and usher in a Utopian age! However, American federal politics are built upon contention (between parties, between branches of government, and so forth).

The attempts by the White House and Congressional leadership to ram through some kind of health-care "reform" show the difficulty of achieving this level of control. Pelosi and Reid have been trying hard to muster this control, by releasing bills just before they are voted on and twisting the arms of recalcitrant Democrats right out of their sockets, but, for all their cajoling and threats and promises, they run into a serious problem: the voters, and not leadership figures, have the power to return a member of Congress to office. They also run into the problem that many in Congress are quite rightly suspicious of attempts to centralize power in the hands of the legislative few.

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