I've been thinking a great deal about Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece on the dashing of President Obama's hopes for a post-partisan administration.
[O]ur political system was designed to be infuriating. As George Edwards notes in his study of Presidents as facilitators, the American system “is too complicated, power too decentralized, and interests too diverse for one person, no matter how extraordinary, to dominate.” Obama, like many Presidents, came to office talking like a director. But he ended up governing like a facilitator, which is what the most successful Presidents have always done. Even Lincoln famously admitted, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events controlled me."
The American system may have been designed to be infuriating, but perhaps not quite so infuriating as it has become. The system was designed on the assumption of a great deal of deference to presidential authority. Perhaps the American electorate has so often turned to military heroes to fill the presidency because the electorate senses that only some extra nimbus of charisma can overcome the extra resistance to the presidency by the political parties uncontemplated by the authors of the Constitution.
The troubles faced by President Obama are not very different from the troubles faced by the presidents before him. Yet with each successive presidency these similar problems become more extreme in nature. Focusing on the particular personality of a particular president will miss the point—as we'll see again in obverse at whatever time the next president takes office.