One of the most obvious facts of national politics is that Washington faces some of the most challenging issues ever (including the solvency of Social Security, not to mention the solvency of our national government). The corollary to this fact is that Washington is broken – with plenty of fault to assign to both sides of the aisle – and, without some serious collaboration, serious solutions remain unlikely.
In Clinton’s nominating speech this week, he proclaimed Obama to be a great compromiser. NPR – not typically considered to be a Republican rag – did a fact check on Clinton’s claim, citing key examples of Obama’s failure to forge compromise:
- The “grand bargain” budget agreement, which failed to come anywhere close to fruition, and
- The Simpson-Bowles recommendations for fixing Social Security and Medicare, which failed to result in meaningful reform. NPR concluded that Obama’s response to the recommendations “ensured the tough compromises would not get made.“
Let’s take a look at healthcare reform as an example of the relative ability of the two presidential candidates to succeed at collaboration:
- The final House vote on Obamacare was 219-212 with 34 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting against the measure. No matter how you feel about the bill, it’s clear that there was a failure of leadership in forging compromise.
- The final vote on Romneycare was very lopsided, with 198 representatives supporting the measure and only 2 representatives opposing it. In the Massachusetts Senate, not a single Senator voted against the bill. The Massachussets House was 85% Democrat at the time Romneycare passed. Romney’s ability to work across the aisle on a complicated and contentious issue demonstrates significant leadership in collaboration and compromise, while Obama’s ability to lead in collaboration and compromise remains as possibly his most disappointing failure to deliver on a campaign promise.
One other measure of the relative success of achieving leadership in collaboration is how the two leaders satisfied their respective electorates in the area of healthcare reform. In Massachusetts, recent polls show Romneycare growing in popularity, with 63% supporting the law. In contrast, 50% of Americans want to repeal Obamacare, according to a national poll released this week.
If you’re not a hard-core ideologue of the left or of the right, it seems to me that you should give serious consideration to Romney’s track record of working across the aisle to forge solutions with staying power. On the other hand, you may want to exercise a healthy dose of scepticism that Obama’s failure to produce a track record of collaboration in his first four years would have much hope of change during a second term.