Conservative Political Commentary

...anti-socialist, anti-globalist, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Monday, March 1, 2010

Governing the “Ungovernable”


Some liberal observers, noticing President Barack Obama’s lack of success in advancing his signature agenda items, “health care reform” and cap and trade, are theorizing (or concluding) that America has become ungovernable.

Newsweek takes up this matter, blaming “obstructionist Republicans, spineless Democrats and an increasingly incoherent electorate” for America’s supposed ungovernability. [1]

The fact that “health care reform” is not yet a done deal is supposed to illustrate the problem. All liberals agree that Obamacare is sorely needed and would greatly relieve a lot of suffering. Yet the Republicans won’t get on board with it, and a majority of Americans, having been informed about it (since the Democrats’ initial dead-of-night, unread-bill effort to pass it didn’t quite work) selfishly don’t want to lose their current coverage, with which they are moderately satisfied, and pay substantially more in taxes.

It’s true that people don’t want to lose their coverage and pay high taxes for the proposed plan. It’s not selfishness, but rational self interest. And, people are becoming more aware of the Constitution and the federal government’s numerous efforts at violating it, thus curtailing freedom. Republicans simply don’t want their name attached to such an offensive piece of legislation, and some may even recognize that this whole area is outside the federal government’s legitimate constitutional authority.

Another consideration is that the Obama Administration has focused on getting their socialist agenda items enacted when the public’s concern was jobs and the economy, about which nothing successful was being done. There was no consensus on cap and trade or the health care effort, both of which could be seen as hurting the economy.

It’s not that America is ungovernable. It simply lacks executive and legislative leadership.

Charles Krauthammer remarks on the similarity of these most recent complaints of ungovernability to the Carter years: “In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say the office had become unmanageable and was too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president's own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.” Then he shows how, in contrast to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter was not able to provide the needed leadership. [2]

Thence the “malaise.” Are we going to be hearing that term again soon?

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics faults Obama for two errors: First putting Nancy Pelosi (too far left) in charge of writing the health care legislation, and second, insisting on comprehensive reforms. “If the truly great Henry Clay could not pass the Compromise of 1850 through the Congress in a single package, what made Barack Obama think he could sign comprehensive energy and health care reforms?” [3]

As Krauthammer points out, economist Paul Krugman even blames the filibuster, although in the G.W. Bush days, he warned against “extremists” trying to get rid of the procedure, when liberals were using it to block Bush’s judicial nominees. [4]

It seems clear that liberals, very reluctant to acknowledge the demonstrated lack of leadership ability in their top government officials, must cast blame elsewhere: the public, the Republicans, and the basic structure of government (i.e., the Constitution), for their failures.

When Republicans return to power, perhaps they will remember how to lead. They have some good examples to look to. Of course, so do the Democrats.


[1] Michael Cohen, “America the Ungovernable,” 01/25/2010, Newsweek.

[2] Charles Krauthammer, “It’s vogue again to declare America ungovernable,” 02/20/10, Houston Chronicle,

[3] Jay Cost, “America Is Not Ungovernable” 02/08/2010, Real Clear Politics.

[4] Krauthammer, see [2].

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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