Michael Gerson: Will 2010 Midterms Be 1994 All Over Again?





[Michael Gerson is a columnist for the WaPo and a former speechwriter for the Bush administration.]

...For nearly two years, American politics has been a controlled ideological experiment. A popular president, granted sizable House and Senate majorities, passed the agenda nearly every Democrat wanted -- a large stimulus package and a major expansion of the federal role in health care. The economic outcome has been universally disappointing. A group of highly motivated activists has concluded that the president is a European-style social democrat who threatens the capitalist system. Many other Americans suspect he is simply out of his depth.

Soon another test commences. Barring some decisive intervening event, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner seem fated to be awkward partners in the public good. Beyond November, there will be a single political question: Can divided government work? The answer: Probably not....

If the Republicans win big in November, the comparisons to 1994 will quickly be raised. After a series of bitter confrontations, Speaker Gingrich and President Clinton found agreement on a balanced budget and welfare reform -- successes of divided government. But this progress required a strong Republican leader and a flexible, willing president -- neither of which is likely to emerge from the 2010 election.



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