Will Congress Sink Obama?

If President Obama's administration is successful, it will likely be in spite of, not because of Congress. “The contours of failure are now clearly visible," Jonathan Chait writes in The New Republic. "In Obama's case, as with his [Democratic] predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate.” Chait’s article, entitled “Why the Democrats Can’t Govern,” contrasts Obama to Bush, who, with only 50 senators in his first term, passed a massive tax cut, education reform, two war resolutions, and a Medicare prescription drug benefit. He sees a few historical reasons for the Democrats’ troubles: one, 60 years of congressional control starting in 1933 left the party more attuned to the nuances of the chamber than to party discipline; two, “the influence of business and the rich unites Republicans and splits Democrats”; and three, a “self-fulfilling prophecy”: “When their party controls all of Washington, things tend to go south quickly. The president's popularity plunges, and soon his copartisans in Congress find themselves scrambling to keep from losing their own seats in the political undertow. … And, so, they hedge their bets by carving out an independent identity.”