11/22/2010 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Brief History of Bipartisanship

Teddy Roosevelt once famously spoke about speaking softly but carrying a big stick. That worked well for him because his enemies, domestic and foreign, had no reason to doubt his willingness to use it.

Given the recent unpleasant mid-terms, it might be instructive to have a think about how a President and a Democratic Congress that won power in massive landslides over two straight election cycles found themselves on the ass-end of American opinion through the lack of such a stick.


1. Our people like happy conservatives (think Reagan), and fierce liberals (think FDR). They are not keen on fierce conservatives, but the distrust of that particular critter pales before the disgust vented upon weak liberals (think Carter.)

By not standing up for their own programs, Obama and the Dems have entered the ranks of Carterdom. Unable even to say the word "stimulus," Obama continually ceded the field to the GOP, who wasted no time painting themselves as the passionate reformers we expected the new President to be. If he actually caves on the Bush tax breaks, a topic his side wins every major poll on, progressive flight from Obama's camp will be unstoppable.

2. When FDR entered office in 1933, one of his first acts was to highlight the bankers who caused the Great Depression. Roosevelt backed a very public probe into the causes of collapse, and gave the American people something they desperately needed besides jobs and food: a villain to blame for their woes.

To date, Obama's Justice Department has not prosecuted a single trader for their obliteration of America's retirement accounts. Again, Obama's inability to create a strong narrative for the general public allowed the Republicans to simply insert him into the "villain vacuum."

All this is very distressing for your average progressive in the street. While Obama's accomplishments are quite real and impressive, he simply must find the will to go to the mat for his goals, or all he's done will be lost.

2012 is here already. There's no time to lose. Please. Mr. President...pick up that stick.