Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fabulous Web Commenter Smacks Whiny Leftist Scribbler ::: Obama the impotent | Steven Hill/

Reading through this drivel I was amazed at this guy's basic understanding of American politics. Thank God for informed readers and responders!

The offending paragraphs (but the whole article is tripe):

Many leaders and supporters are beginning to wonder what is causing this growing gap between the Barack Obama that many people saw on the campaign trail, and the Obama they see in the White House? Beyond Obama's oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising among many that President Obama may not be up to the task, that he may not possess the artful skills needed to accomplish even his own goals.

But it must be recognised that it's not just Obama's shortcomings that are causing the problem. The very structure of the American political system is at the heart of these failures. For example, thwarting Obama on a regular basis is an unrepresentative senate where "minority rule" prevails and undermines what a majority of the country may want. With two senators elected per state, regardless of population, California with more than 35 million people has the same number of senators as Wyoming with just half a million residents. This constitutional arrangement greatly favours low population states, many of which tend to be conservative, producing what one political analyst has called "a weighted vote for small-town whites in pickup trucks with gun racks."

In addition, the senate's use of that arcane rule known as the "filibuster" means you need 60 out of 100 votes to stop unlimited debate on a bill and move to a vote. A mere 41 senators, representing as little as 20% of the nation's population, can stymie the other 80%. Given a vastly unrepresentative senate wielding its anti-majoritarian filibuster, it is hardly surprising that minority rule in the senate consistently undermines majority rule, whether on healthcare, financial industry reform, environmental legislation and many other policies.

Pile on to that an uncompetitive, winner-take-all electoral system, marinated in money and special interest influence, and the sclerotic US political scene is deeply troubling. None of these anti-democratic structural features are going away any time soon. Unless Barack Obama is able to demonstrate a better level of political skill than he has shown so far, everyone needs to fasten their seatbelts. The world is about to enter a challenging phase where the US – the undisputed leader of the free world for the past 60 years – is going to rapidly cede its place at the head of the line.

It appears that the wheels may be coming off the world's post-war leader, and not even Barack Obama can stop it happening.

And now, a little brains, thank you:


22 Sep 09, 2:19pm

When will the Guardian and its commentators realize that global warming is a non-issue in the USA? Nobody is going to willingly see their jobs threatened for the sake of carbon emission reductions. Watch what happens to cap and trade. Watch what happens in Europe, too, as the costs of climate legislation become more manifest. (Hint: Australia). This issue is dead in the water, and you might as well get over it.

For the rest, the author displays an astonishing ignorance of US Constitutional history. The structuring of the Senate and the House were conscious, deliberate actions of the framers of the Constitution, precisely to insure the "checks and balances" that they were striving for.

The House is constructed according to population, and House members have a two-year term. Thus they are more likely to be influenced by public opinion and short-term trends - and indeed they are. They are, in fact, in permanent re-election mode, which is precisely why Obama's programs are in such trouble (54 Democratic congressmen come from demographically conservative districts that went for McCain.)

The Senate, by contrast, was deliberately set up to be the more conservative chamber. Not only are there two senators per state - thus nullifying the population advantages of the bigger states - but senators are elected for six year terms. The theory is that the individual Senator, safe for six years, need not be as swayed by short-term trends. What's more, the terms are staggered so that one third of the Senate comes up for re-election every two years, thus giving the body an infusion of new ideas (or at least, Senators who have had to be re-elected in face of current trends and issues).

It's all very conscious and purposeful, because gridlock was the utopia that the framers of the constitution were seeking in their fear of tyranny (tyranny of the majority, tyranny of minority, tyranny of short-term popular passions, etc.)

I am not suggesting that the author should have added dozens of paragraphs of constitutional history to this article, but to have demonstrated even a nodding acquaintance with the underlying forces would have been useful.

The earlier level of runaway enthusiasm for Obama was precisely the kind of short-term mania of which the framers of the Constitution were rightly suspicious. The growing disillusionment confirms the wisdom of their views.

Obama the impotent | Steven Hill | Comment is free |

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