Should Obama Be Faulted for the Lack of Bipartisanship?: Jay Cost

Jay Cost:

My criticism of the President is not that he shares most of the blame. Instead, we should spread the blame for partisan polarization around. Obama gets some. So do Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, Reagan, Carter, and all the way back to John Adams. Pelosi and Reid get their fair share. And of course McConnell, Boehner, and congressional Republicans get just as much. Ultimately, everybody gets some of the blame because heated partisanship is in part a consequence of our electoral system, which only few of us wish to change.

Instead, my criticism of the President is that he promised to be above this. He made that the core pledge of his candidacy, the principal reason he should receive the nomination and ultimately the presidency over the dozen or so other contenders across both parties who had better résumés but had been part of the partisan hackery. It was always going to be damned near impossible to move beyond heated partisanship – given all the structural forces that have been at work since the founding, and the ones that have been increasing in the last half century or so. In my opinion, that excuses President Obama for not moving us beyond it – but it does not excuse candidate Obama from promising that he could. Either he knew better and should not have made that promise (and, by extension, should not have run, given the centrality of this promise) – or he didn’t know better and was just naïve. Either way, it is appropriate to hold him to account.

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