Last night was a big night for Republicans: they took the House – with about 240 seats – and made big gains in the Senate. It’s highly likely that in the next two years of divided government, a lot of work – for example, with healthcare – just won’t get done. So are we really in for 24 months of gridlock?
Probably, but I doubt that’s the whole story. There may, in fact, be some areas where Democrats and Republicans can work together. Here’s Ezra Klein’s take:
Where Clinton agonized, Obama analyzed. It was clear that Obama has started to think seriously about how he will navigate a Washington with many more Republicans in it. But nothing about him suggested that he viewed the impending arrival of those Republicans as evidence that he needed to radically rethink his presidency. Obama sounded neither shell-shocked nor defiant. He seemed entirely focused on the practical:where he might work with Republicans, and where he expects confrontation (education, infrastructure, and energy in the first group; taxes, health care, and Social Security in the second).
And that seems about right to me. Obama’s views on education (whatever you may think of them) are not far from the conservative position, and there are doubtless some conservative constituencies out there looking for some infrastructure projects. So at the very least, Republicans will probably be able to accomplish some of what they’re looking to get done.
And if you’re worried about Obama’s ability to do things in the next 2 years, look no further than Matthew Yglesias for a solution to that problem:
Meanwhile, having cleared his schedule of meetings with Phil Schirilo there’s time for more meetings with folks from the Counsel’s office about judicial vacancies. There should be a nominee for each vacancy! That’ll probably set up a problem of getting the judges confirmed, but the first step is coming up with the names. And Obama will have more time to spend on foreign policy. How are we going to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan? How can we continue the dialogue with China over trade and currency issues? How can we strengthen ties with India, Brazil, Indonesia and other large developing democracies? How can he work with Dilma Roussef to check the spread of authoritarian populism in the region?
Indeed! There are plenty of things Obama can do from the executive branch that don’t require him to entangle himself with Congress. So I’m on board with Yglesias here: let Harry Reid handle all the legislative drama. If Obama wants to get things done, he can – he just has to work in the right areas.
(Image by Violentz used under a Creative Commons license.)