When the dust clears in November, the odds are pretty good that neither party will control enough of the levers of power in our system of separated and balanced powers to accomplish anything big without the cooperation of the other party.
Looking at the past month or two of the campaign, which most experts say has gone more negative earlier than past campaigns, Stu Rothenberg raises the question this morning of whether, after a campaign like this is shaping up to be, anyone will be able to govern. Here’s a taste from Rothenberg’s piece:
“The one thing that is certain is that either Obama or Romney will be sworn in as president in January and will have to govern. But unless the nature of the campaigns changes dramatically between now and November — an unlikely development — the winner won’t have established much of a rationale for his term. Moreover, he will have contributed to the poisoned atmosphere in Washington, D.C., that will greet him.
“Not surprisingly, the Romney message is that Obama has failed. Yes, the challenger’s campaign has an agenda, but it seems little more than the litany of worn-out buzzwords and slogans about taxes, spending and ‘big government’ that we have heard for the past 25 years.
“Trying to make the 2012 election a simple referendum about unemployment and economic growth certainly is Romney’s best strategy, but it doesn’t help him build support for an agenda if he wins.
“Similarly, Obama’s effort to discredit Romney as a potential president is a good strategy, but it doesn’t position him to accomplish much during a second term. And if the president’s proposal on ending the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year is an indication, a second Obama term would be a regurgitation of proposals left over from the first term, hardly a hopeful sign given likely Republican control of the House next year.
“Given both campaigns so far and the expected increase in both the volume and the meanness of attacks as Election Day approaches, November’s winner will be greeted by an opposition party disinclined to give the new president the benefit of the doubt on anything. This is particularly the case if Obama wins a second term, because Republicans in Congress will instantly be thinking about 2014 and Obama’s second midterm elections.”