Wow: No wonder I like Pete, he's thinking exactly what I'm thinking.
In today's New Yorker, he picked up on an idea I have been thinking about this since Trump's victory, and apparently, so has he. I'm quite a geek, so abstract ideas really grab me. The quote that grabbed me is below.
"Well, I think his [Obama's] Presidency was very constrained. In a tactical sense, of course, it was constrained by the partisan makeup of the Congress, and, I would also argue, by, in many cases, bad faith on the part of the Senate and House Republicans, who, it turned out, were not very interested in compromise or in working together... But I think there was an even bigger kind of global constraint that affected that Presidency, which was that it was still part of a forty-some-year era that you might call a Reagan consensus, when a conservative or neoliberal economic worldview really dictated how both Republicans and Democrats were supposed to behave. So for some of the same reasons that, you know, a Republican President like Nixon was doing a lot of pretty progressive things on domestic policy that would have still placed him a little bit on the right side of the spectrum, as it was in America at the time, the seventies. You know, Democratic Presidents in my lifetime, Clinton and Obama both, I think, have been operating in a fundamentally conservative framework, and its something we should remember when we think about the shortcomings of the things that didnt happen that we wish would."
The idea he is talking about is from a political science book called "The Politics that Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton" by Steve Skowronek.
It's all about how the Presidency goes through cycles where a "reconstructive" (i.e. transformative) President brings in new ideas and a new political coalition that set the assumptions for the next 20-40 years and that President's party dominates the politics of that era. Towards the end of that era, things start to fall apart for the old coalition, and then a new reconstructive President, usually from the other party takes over. Reconstructive Presidents were Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR and Reagan.
We are still living under the Reagan regime, the conservative/neoliberal assumptions Pete refers to. If this cycle continues in the way it usually has, then Trump is a "disjunctive" President, the one who tries to hold the old coalition together, but can't. Generally, disjunctive Presidents precede reconstructive ones. So Pete explains, based on this theory, why Obama had so much trouble getting things through Congress, what 2016 meant, and by implication, what he's trying to do for 2020. He is trying to be a truly transformative President, 2020 is the once in a generation chance to be one, so he's decided to seize the moment despite his young age. It also explains what he is trying to do - something like build a new coalition of social progressives, labor, millenials and economic progressives.
It's a really a very hopeful theory for our side. We've been living under the Reagan regime so long, it's constrained what we think is possible, and the end of a regime is usually a dark and difficult time. But the transformative Presidents that have followed have included some of our greatest.
Also I think it explains why someone with a non-traditional resume like Pete's can win. Jackson, Lincoln and Reagan had non-traditional resumes. FDR had a more traditional resume, but he was also a very unusual person - handicapped, a wealthy patrician populist, and the first President to master radio.
Geek that I am, it excites me and encourages me that Pete is using this to form his strategy.
Read more about this theory here and how it may apply to Trump here:
And a longer version here:
And a sort of midterm report on Trump here:
GOP complaints about the debt. He introduced healthcare which has been transformative though the GOP tried to make it not so.
He wanted to be a reconstructive President but turned out to be an oppositional one, that is tried to take down the Reagan regime and build a new one, but it was still too strong for him. He manage to accomplish some of what he wanted. Had Clinton won, she might have been able to complete what he started, then he could be regarded as reconstructive, but with Trump's failures, the time is ripe for transformation.