There has been fair amount of criticism lately when President Obama asserted that 'change cannot happen' from inside. You have starting from Ezra Klein to insiders of WaPo blogging to Molly Ball at The Atlantic faulting President Obama.
I do not agree with this criticism and think that President has got it right here. Ezra's main arguments are:
- ObamaCare is a prime example of how the change happens from inside; and
- after the shellacking of 2010 when President changed his tack to get pressure from outside of Washington, his political opponents simply stiffened and went fully ballistic.
First of all such an argument ignores the political cost of Nebraska Corn Husker and Louisiana Purchase during the sausage making of ObamaCare. No doubt the substantial reason for Obama and Dem loss in 2010 was because of these Washington Insider strategies. One can legitimately complain about the policies advocated by the Tea Party, but one cannot disagree with what they represent - Americans across the board from Left to Right do not want 'old style cozy Washington Bipartisanship'. President Obama hears that while his critics in this matter are advocating the 'business as usual'. Perhaps having been part of Washington Elites these critics may have an high opinion of themselves and the wisdom of experts residing in Washington. On the other hand this can be even understood as a classical example of how every time a politician attempts to ignore the Beltway consensus, no matter how enlightened these experts are, they reject that path. I feel reactions of these Beltway Pundits is nothing but vindication of President Obama's basic political assessment here. President Obama's political antennas are very sensitive and alert than what these pundits are arguing about.
But then what about the observation that every time President Obama tried to bring pressure from outside, the political opponents simply stiffened their resistance to President's agenda? But then how different this is than the parliamentary democracies unfolding from West minister to Loksabha in New Delhi? At some point in this Internet and Tweeter era American Public at large will have to come to grips with how a complete mandate needs to be given to a political party to achieve the change and then hold that political force as fully accountable. What President Obama is 'arguing for change from outside of Washington' is nothing but an electoral argument for such majorities. If at all, he needs to be much more explicit and emphatic over here. How American's resolve the simultaneous urge 'to hedge absolute power' to 'enough political power to achieve a meaningful change' - that is the 'meta-narrative' which a politician seeking votes would have much less influence on; including President Obama. That is not the debate where he needs to go.
With a decade of intense polarization, American Politics has reached a stage where 'the change has to be sold and effected' by directly taking your political opposition head-on. There is no going about that and anything else would simply mean less transparency and reduced democracy in our political process.