Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Will President-Elect Obama Govern?

I think this passage from his riveting speech last evening ("Yes we can" - tremendous cadence) is extremely telling:

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

If Rahm Emanuel has been offered the position of Secretary of State as reported this morning, he will be apt to remind Obama of the failings of Bill Clinton in his first two years as President. Clinton swept far to the left out of the gate, causing a conservative groundswell. The Republicans fought back in 1994, effectuating a 54 seat swing in the House and picking up 8 seats in the Senate. It gave Clinton pause and he revisited his notions of liberal governance. For the next six years, Clinton's policies were fairly moderate and he supported tactile policies for consumption on both sides of the aisle (e.g., Welfare reform, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997). He also presided over a soaring period of prosperity.

President-Elect Obama shouldn't emulate Clinton's administration. Our challenges are different and contemporary, as is our new leader. But he should take what he needs from the lessons of the past to govern effectively.

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