In politics as in life, great crises often create great opportunities. In electing a Democratic president and increased majorities in both chambers of Congress, the American public gave Democrats a mandate to repair much of the damage it believes Republicans have done to the country.
But there are some, like Sen. John McCain in one of his campaignâ€™s closing arguments, who charge that a single-party government canâ€™t be good for the country because, they fear not having a system of checks and balances will lead to abuse of power — particularly under Congressâ€™s left-wing leaders.
However, having a single party in power does have its advantages. The most important of which is that more gets often accomplished. And when there is deadlock, such as can occur when one party controls the White House and another Congress, voters donâ€™t know who to blame for what does or doesnâ€™t get done. â€śIf in four years things are as bad as they are today, there wonâ€™t be any question as to whoâ€™s responsible,â€ť says DePaul University political scientist Michael Mezey.
House majority whip Rep. Jim Clyburn says there is a difference between leaning left and lurching left, and he has warned his fellow Democrats against the latter. â€śI get a little nervous when I hear that people, especially on my side of the aisle, seem to feel that weâ€™ve been given a mandate to go lurching to the left as an antidote for Bush having taken us so far to the right,â€ť he says. He believes that President-elect Barack Obama will govern from the center and voters want lawmakers to work together in a bipartisan manner to put the country back on track.
Clyburn also has cautioned members against trying to achieve too much too quickly. Looking back to the sixties when President Lyndon Johnson enacted civil rights laws in stages, he says, â€śWe have to be patient; we canâ€™t do things in one fell swoop. You do it in an incremental, evolutionary way.â€ť
Although in some ways Obamaâ€™s job will be easier with Democratic majorities, conflicts will arise from within the partyâ€™s rank and file and it cannot be assumed that heâ€™ll get everything he wants.
â€śBill Clinton had a Democratic majority in his first two years as president and there were frustrations, including Congressâ€™s failure to pass his healthcare program. In 2005-06, Bush was not able to move his social security revision plan through a Republican-controlled House and Senate,â€ť says Mezey. â€śSo the assumption that presidents control their co-partisans is false. Obama will have to work very hard to keep his majorities together and on a number of issues will have to seek bipartisan solutions, and he will encounter opposition from both the left and the right.â€ť
Although there will be exceptions, many Republicans are not likely to be in