Let’s make this simple. The American public wants political leaders who work across the aisle to get things done. Barack Obama has not shown a proclivity to work with Congress, even when it was controlled by Democrats. To the dismay of some conservatives, Mitt Romney governed Massachusetts as a joint venture with the dominant Democrats.
The polling numbers would vary by specific subject but, in general, the public believes that more compromise is needed in Washington. Congressional approval ratings – 20% among Democrats; 17% among Republicans; 16% among Independents – reflects both those who are upset that their point of view isn’t prevailing and those who abhor the impasse. This isn’t about the Republicans controlling the House and demanding fiscal restraint; polling was little better in 2009-10 when the Democrats ran both houses of Congress and spent their time on the Stimulus Plan and Obamacare. The 84% of independents who do not approve would like to see more cooperation within the Congress (House and Senate) and between the Congress and the White House.
So how did Mitt Romney do between 2003 and 2007 when he was governor of Massachusetts? There will be lots of claims and counter-claims about job creation, and he did veto some 800 spending measures from the Democratic legislature to balance the budget without increasing income or sales taxes; however, there is no doubt that he worked closely with Democratic leadership in crafting Romneycare at a point when many Massachusetts Democrats wanted a state-run health care program. Appointment of judges was also instructive; with a Democratic-dominated Governor’s Council having a veto over his selections, he created a “partisan-blind” nomination process which resulted in appointments which were about one third Republican, one third Democratic, and one third independent. He gets dinged by Democrats and the media for having been a “CEO Governor” who did not trade jobs and capital projects for votes, but he did meet regularly with the Democratic leaders and surrounded himself with competent staff.
And President Obama? The recent decision to not enforce immigration laws for young illegals is instructive. (A similar “executive order” approach has been taken on EPA regulation against coal-fired electical generation, non-enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act or medical marijuana laws, and allowing internet gambling.) If the objective had been to help young immigrants, Obama could have marshalled Senator Marco Rubio (who had been working on a bill similar to Obama’s proclamation), Senator Dick Durbin (author of the failed DREAM Act), and perhaps Senator John McCain (who has long favored comprehensive immigration reform) to generate a Durbin-Rubio Immigration Reform Act. But then, that was neither his style nor his objective. It is particularly fitting and symbolic that Daryl Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has found Obama’s Attorney General in contempt of Congress for stonewalling an investigation into a botched gun sales sting.
All pundits agree that this presidential election will be won in the middle – among the soccer moms, in the suburbs of Cleveland, with the Reagan Democrats. Up with the pragmatists; down with the idealogues. With the Republicans heavily favored to retain the House, the best that an Obama election would offer is four more years of impasse. Romney offers cooperation with a Republican House and a Senate which will represent a check on extreme positions – whether it is marginally led by Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid. For those who really do want cooperation in Washington, that’s a distinction with a big difference.
This week’s video is a unique political ad by Roger Williams, a conservative candidate for Congress from central Texas.