September 18, 2013

President's congressional support level proves something

The New York Times today has an article about how the president is seeing defiance from within the Democratic party in Congress.  But the interesting thing about the article is a statistic well down in the piece about the unprecedented level of support the president has received in Congress and what it says about his agenda.
Via NYT (emphasis added):
...The White House discounted suggestions of trouble with Congressional Democrats and produced voting statistics showing that, with the exception of Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama had more support from his own party in his first four years than any president through Dwight D. Eisenhower. Democrats stood behind him on health care, Wall Street regulation and budget battles.

“President Obama has received unprecedented support from his party in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, his senior adviser. “Of course we won’t agree on everything all the time — every family has its squabbles — but the periodic disagreements in the Democratic Party pale in comparison to the epic existential civil war for the soul of the Republican Party that is leading to so much dysfunction.”

The White House’s statistics show that Senate Democrats voted with Mr. Obama more than 90 percent of the time over his first four years, compared with Mr. Clinton, who had support in the 80 percent range over a similar period and President Ronald Reagan, whose party voted with him in the 70 percent range.
President Bush had support soar in light of the 9-11 attacks and therefore represents an anomaly in terms of support.  Don't expect president Obama's support to fall to the same extent George W. Bush's likely did.  But the most interesting detail is that 90% lockstep support far exceeded the party line support that Clinton received.  And far exceeded the support that Reagan got.
That proves a couple of things. 
(1) Democrats vote party lines with a homogeneity that is clearly indicative of groupthink.  Republican support levels for Republican presidents varies so much that it certainly indicates a much higher level of independent thinking among Republicans.  That's a double edged sword of course.  Thinking is valuable and should be encouraged.  Democrats could learn from Republicans in that regard.  However, for Republicans it is harder to get big things done because of that critical thinking on any given subject.  Another problem with it is that Republican breaking of party line votes can come from liberal Republican RINOs, and they tend to just be voting with Democrats - often just to be re-elected in their left-leaning states. 
(2) President Obama owns the results of his first term.  He cannot pass the buck.  The first half of his first term there was no dissent from Democrats and little resistance from Republicans.  Sadly, they accomplished quite a lot - things that will prove destructive to the economy of America for years, until they are finally undone. The support level he enjoyed during those legislative accomplishments will not stop the president from trying to share the inevitable failures with Republican obstructionism. 
As Obamacare spirals into entropy, watch for Obama to try to place the blame for the trouble on Republican's early (and subsequent) efforts to scuttle the legislation.  The problems now, he will try to argue, is that in order to get the law through an uncooperative Congress, a lot of special tweaking had to happen and it made the law too convoluted to work properly.  That's true, except the special deals that were made, were all with Congressional Democrats who were supposed to be onside without the kickbacks.
One additional thought on the Obamacare blame game - don't expect the president to start it before his term ends if he can help it.  The president will want to get through this term pretending there are no problems with Obamacare at all.  He doesn't want to be sullied by any impression of problems with it.  Igf it happens after he leaves office he can always blame the troubles on his successors.  Only if the president is forced into talking about the issues with Obamacare earlier will he do so.

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