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Opinion

January 13, 2014

Shribman: Anomie or achievement?

(Continued)

But his biggest problem involves promises breached and promise unrealized. He promised to work with his rivals and yet rammed through his biggest social program without a single Republican vote, a symbol of his approach to governing.

He showed unbounded promise as a communicator; indeed in the 2008 campaign, he seemed like the Great Communicator 2.0, with an uncanny and unequaled intuitive ability to read the public, to speak for the public and to lead the public. And, yet, the public man has disappointed even his most fervent backers.

Americans very likely would vote again for the man who ran against John McCain in November 2008. They very likely would not vote again for the man who has occupied the White House since January 2009.

The political paralysis on Capitol Hill

In 1964, a half century ago, the Senate was hung up for more than two months in the longest, most vicious filibuster in American history — and, yet, in the end it passed the Civil Rights Act that transformed the United States. But amid that political rancor, Congress also passed a landmark mass transit act that would change the face of urban America, an economic opportunity bill that would launch the War on Poverty, a wilderness bill that protected 9.1 million acres of natural beauty. That last piece of legislation required 60 drafts, and yet, the lawmakers came to final agreement, and the country was better for it.

Breathes there a soul alive today who thinks that the 113th Congress would have the patience or forbearance to work through 60 drafts of anything, except, of course, a fundraising appeal? Or that these lawmakers could go from filibuster to fulfilling their governing responsibilities without throwing the country, the financial markets and the most vulnerable among us into disorder, confusion and chaos?

The crisis of the political class as a whole

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