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A note of (reassuring?) reality post election ...

by Bill Osler / November 3, 2004 10:15 AM PST

This evening I got around to looking at the Newsweek that arrived recently, dated 11/8/04.

Over the years I've become increasingly appreciative of George Will. Sure, he has some blind spots (he seems to reject the notion of institutional racism, for example) and I'll never understand his thing about baseball. I suspect I'll always consider him a bit too arrogant. But never mind that. I think his recent column MSNBC - Will: The Deflation of Politics is a reminder to us all that the election results are neither as final nor as apocalyptic as some have described them. It is especially interesting given the fact that he wrote it well before the election. The Republicans still do not have full control of the Senate (that requires 60 seats) so the Democrats can still create all kinds of chaos if they choose to do so. The president has a certain freedom to set his agenda since he is not worried about re-election but he also has lost some power because he is a lame duck. There are limits to his power.

Congress is a fact, and can be stubborn. In their quadrennial obsession with the presidency, Americans forget that Congress is the first branch of government. There is a reason the Constitution deals with the legislative branch in Article I: not much happens without its cooperation.
Presidential power is primarily the power to persuade. Both Bush and Kerry ran campaigns of mobilization more than persuasion. They no longer have, if they ever did, much power to generate affection or enthusiasm beyond their respective cohorts of supporters. The most politically engaged of those now bristle with hostility toward the other side.
Elections matter, but their reverberations are limited. Governments change; for most people, the basic conditions of life do not. Or at least they do not change much because of election results.

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