Not Great Enough
America needs partisan victories, not bipartisan compromise
When asking how to mobilize our paralyzed government, journalist and former PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer exposed the chief lesson of President Barack Obama’s current term. The Great Man Theory of politics — that history clings to the coattails of great men who move society through charisma and will — is dead in America.
You could hear it in the platitudes Gov. Mitt Romney had to respond with, and the sarcasm of the president’s retort. If anyone knows the limitations of the olive branch, it is President Obama. In the midst of the election’s home stretch, we too easily forget the tone of 2008. People really believed that election changed us. Spectators as far away as Moscow, Idaho, cried watching the inauguration of a Great Man who was sure to deliver.
The collision of fantasy and reality tends toward the ugly. Despite the influence of Great Men, America has been fundamentally divided for a long time. President Obama could not change this in 2008, just as neither candidate will bridge this gulf in 2012.
President Obama’s current term is reacquainting America with the limited scope of our highest office. Great Men are elected president, but the charm and intellect of one man is easily swallowed by the will of 41 great-to-mediocre men and women in our Senate, and 218 in our House of Representatives.
One party knows victory is not secured through the presidency, but congressional majority in both houses, including 60 Senate seats. Republicans have reaped electoral rewards for historic obstruction throughout President Obama’s term. Reinforcement like this is not lost on Democrats, and a President Romney should anticipate a similar welcome.
He could not speak it, but Gov. Romney knows, just as President Obama knows, only partisan victories in 2012 and 2014 strong enough for one party to drag the other forward is the answer to political paralysis. Great Men or not, this is a feat out of both candidates’ hands.
Brian Marceau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org