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Yes We Can, but…

November 5, 2010

The need for checks and balances is certainly valid. It helps protect the factions—those explained in the Federalist Paper No.10– of the United States and the possibility of an absolute monarch. As I watch and read the news and see a growing disapproval rate of Obama, I wonder if Obama would be more effective on his own? His campaign slogan in 2008 was “Yes We Can” and he still abides but this today—however with a clause. As he appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and he was asked by Stewart himself about modifying this catchphrase; he answered promptly with those same three words that got him elected, however with a different meaning. He stated, “Yes, we can – but it’s not going to happen overnight.” The signifier of the word “but” shows the obvious struggle he is having during his administration to fulfill his promise. When I came to this conclusion I quickly referred to the readings and examining we did of Locke in lecture and in discussion. Certainly it will not be easier for Obama to implement all of his envisions as chief because of this recent midterm election, but what I am examining is what would be the ideal way for him to do so—the theorist point of view. It was shown with the health care bill that the GOP—the opposing party to Obama’s democrats—was reluctant and caused a temporary stalemate. With the large gains in the incumbency of the GOP it seems there is potential that there will be political stalemate like those in the 1990’s. Referring to Locke, I feel that there is need for less legislative tie up and hold up and more opportunity for executive action—along the lines of prerogative. The president has the ability to veto a law passed by the legislative but if he were to have more authority and expediting bills he could do more of his plan possibly. It is kind of like Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriquez. There is all of this debacle around him and his incumbency as head coach. The argument and consensus by many is to let him implement his system of play and see how successful he is. Those critics admit it takes time for this to happen and if time passes and he fails then we remove him. This theory could be applied in such with our “head coach” of the country. Let him put his entire system into place without any distraction.

  1. tungyat permalink
    November 6, 2010 12:14 PM

    I believe you are referring to a concept that is known as the benevolent dictator, where a leader has absolute power over the country but instead of abusing it, chooses to govern it in what he perceives as the best interests of his country. It’s rare for such an altruistic person to exist, so this political system simply doesn’t work as the risk of having a tyrant with absolute power is too high for the people to agree to this form of social contract. In return for the inefficiencies of democracy, the threat from the more extreme events of tyranny and the like are significantly reduced by a diversity of opinions governing the country.

  2. Zach permalink
    November 6, 2010 4:58 PM

    I think you make good points in that the division of power has created inefficiency and gridlock. Obama cannot pass his brand of legislation both due to division of power and idealogical opposition. One key feature of the parties in America is something that Arend Liphardt pointed out in “Patterns of Democracy”, America has three parties, The Republicans, The Northern Liberals (Democratic Coalition) and Southern Democrats (Democratic Coalition). This division makes “liberal” policies almost impossible, even with a Democratic super majority. When the Healthcare debate was over with, the Democrats had to use cloture and almost every other house rule to get the basic majorities needed to pass the bill into law. It was a terrible mess, but the only way to get anything done.

    In order to assure less tie-up, a parliamentary system might be better. With the threats of dissolving the House or Senate, a president who could resign and non-super majorities, Obama himself stated that he hated the 60 seat vote needed to pass anything in the Senate, the government would be much more efficient. This system of checks and balances would be much more active and capable of helping legislation pass.

    The problem of inefficient is solved by Hobbes in that the Sovereign would have ultimate autonomy over the people. If Obama was limited in years, not powers, then he could pass his agenda quite easily. But, he is not. As with any president, he is contending with the legislative branch and an opposing party that wants to make the Democrats look bad. In my experience, Republicans tend to make better politicians. They hold much more party unity and thus their agenda can much more easily be met.

    What the Executive must do is compromise, a staple of democracy, and something we can all work on doing more often.

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