Tag Archives: ObamaCare

When Will the United States Next Have a Transformational President on Domestic Policy?

I was catching up on some of the journal articles I’ve accumulated to read over the last year and I one caught my eye: “Transformational and transactional presidents,” by Joseph Nye, Jr. In the article, Nye makes the case that presidents didn’t matter (as much) to the US developing into a great power as we may have previously thought. Furthermore, Nye makes the case that our definitions of the two types of leadership aren’t clear and that the preference for transformational leaders is misplaced.

One of the parts that I enjoyed about this brief article was how Nye identified that presidents can be transformational and transactional at the same time. How? Because there are many different facets to a presidency and so while a president may be transformational in domestic policy, they might not be in foreign policy. Similarly, they can not be transformational in foreign policy early on in their term, but become transformational in response to external events.

Upon finishing the article, I was left wondering if (when?) the United States will again have a transformational president, with regard to domestic policy. Nye didn’t make this case in the article (but maybe he did in his book?), but based on his definition of transformational leaders, with regard to objectives [seeking major change], President Obama was certainly a transformational president. Obamacare is a sweeping change to the way that the US administers healthcare to its people. At the time, President Obama also enjoyed majorities in both the Senate and the House, so this kind of change was more possible (especially more possible than it is now. Can you imagine Pres. Obama trying to pass anything close to Obamacare with the GOP-controlled House and Senate?)

Given Hillary Clinton’s speech this past weekend, I’m inclined to think that she has ideas about domestic policy that would make her a transformational president. However, based on what’s been written about the likelihood of the GOP to continue to hold the majority in the House (redistricting, etc.), it doesn’t seem like there’s likely to be a Democratic-controlled House for the next few election cycles. It’s possible that the Senate flips back to the Democrats in 2016, but they’d need the House to also make a “big change.” So, it seems that, if there’s going to be a transformational president (on domestic policy), it’d have to come from the GOP.

I haven’t been following too closely the candidates from the GOP side, especially with regard to their domestic policy ideas, but is there a transformational president amongst them? There could be, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. If neither party is able to sweep the polls in 2016, we might be waiting for a transformational president on domestic policy in the US until at least the next decade.

ResearchBlogging.orgNye, J. (2013). Transformational and transactional presidents Leadership, 10 (1), 118-124 DOI: 10.1177/1742715013512049

Visiting Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Lesson in Incrementalism

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon — otherwise known as George Washington’s home. It was quite lovely. The grounds are beautiful — so many wide open spaces, lots of greenery, and access to a waterway. Just what you’d want in an estate, I suppose. It was a bit goosebump-inducing to be able to walk through (and be near) the room where Washington and some of the other Founding Fathers plotted.

After walking through the museums on the estate, I was a bit surprised. I didn’t grow up with American history (having spent my youth in Canada), so I didn’t know much of the story of how the United States came to be of the United States. As a result, I was surprised to read about just how tenuous the beginning actually was. Of course, I’m aware that some of it may have been a bit dramatized, but Washington did a remarkable thing (depending on your perspective).

The surprising part, though, comes when I reflect on the discussions of the “greatest” President in the history of the United States. Whenever I read articles about this superfluous ranking, invariable, Lincoln tops the list. Part of this could be because some of the articles I’d been reading about the greatest US Presidents were written right around the time that the Lincoln movie was coming out. I’m also not trying to minimize what Lincoln did for the US — it is certainly important. Although, without Washington, would there even have been an Abraham Lincoln (in the way that we know of him)?

One other thing that was interesting to read about when walking through the museum was the idea that Washington also believed that the slaves should be free. Some attribute this belief to the fact that he freed his slaves when he died. Part of the reason (it’s theorized) that he didn’t free all the slaves was because of the shaky grounds that the US was still on when he was alive. Had he tried to make such a bold movie, the US might not have survived. In all fairness, some could make the argument that the US is still struggling with Lincoln’s decision to do just that (and that was a generation after Washington apparently considered the act).

In seeing that Washington was considering freeing the slaves, it made me think about incrementalism. When I used to watch politicians debate seemingly “small” measures to big problems, I would always grow frustrated. I would think to myself, why can’t they just make the big solution? I’m reminded of the phrase, “all in good time.” Sometimes, it’s not feasible to make big changes all at once. Even the small changes take time adjusting to (in politics). Making a big change could be untenable to some groups of people.

I look at the Affordable Care Act that President Obama pushed so hard for a couple of years ago. Many Democrats and liberals were upset that there wasn’t a push for a single-payer system. One would assume that President Obama opted not to push for that because he didn’t think that it could have passed. Healthcare, in and of itself, was hard enough to pass, so trying to pass something like a single-payer system would have been that much harder.

Circling back to Washington… I wonder what he would/could have accomplished for the country had he stayed on for a third term as President. I know that he died two years after stepping aside, but if he had continued as President, would we have gotten the 22nd Amendment sooner? Would Presidents like Jefferson or Madison stayed on for more than two terms?

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Decision on the Voting Rights Act

More than a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on a case that had implications for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court ruled that the formula from Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional. The decision has certainly enraged liberals and the political left as is clear in Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.

Because of this outrage, I’ve seen some people argue that this decision was good for liberals/democrats because it will ignite those potentially disenfranchised people to vote. From Ross Douthat:

Well, to begin with, voter identification laws do not belong to the same moral or legal universe as Jim Crow. Their public purpose, as a curb to fraud, is potentially legitimate rather than nakedly discriminatory, and their effects are relatively limited. As Roberts’s majority opinion noted, the voter registration gap between whites and blacks in George Wallace’s segregationist Alabama was 50 percentage points.

… But voter ID laws don’t take effect in a vacuum: as they’re debated, passed and contested in court, they shape voter preferences and influence voter enthusiasm in ways that might well outstrip their direct influence on turnout. They inspire registration drives and education efforts; they help activists fund-raise and organize; they raise the specter of past injustices; they reinforce a narrative that their architects are indifferent or hostile to minorities.

W.W. from The Economist finds Douthat’s analysis “quite plausible.” Both articles referenced the same information I talked about yesterday: the missing white voter.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this assessment.

In Wisconsin a couple of years ago, citizens were pretty excited about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Some folks were really upset by Gov. Walker’s actions on collective bargaining. Democrats, Gov. Walker is a Republican, thought that they could seize this opportunity to recall the Governor. There were over 1 million signatures to recall the Governor. It seemed like there was lots of momentum and people engaged in the recall. However, during the recall election of 2012, Gov. Walker won more of the vote than he did in the gubernatorial election of 2010.

There’s another example from this past election: The Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, known as “ObamaCare.” In March 2012, when the Supreme Court heard the arguments for the case, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

This week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health-care overhaul will have huge political ramifications.

Then, in June, when the decision was rendered, there was this from The Weekly Standard:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the principal choice now facing Americans on November 6 will be whether to keep Obamacare or to repeal it.

Republicans and conservatives thought that ObamaCare was going to give them the chance they needed to have a Republican elected President. It’s safe to say that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Not only did Republicans not elect a Republican President, but they also lost seats in the Senate (when they anticipated winning more seats).

Neither of these examples perfectly map onto the VRA decision, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an overreaction in assuming that this decision is going to be a lightning rod for Democrats. I’d say that it’s “too early to tell” how this will affect the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, the one of the only things that can be said about the political implications of the VRA: We’ll see…