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And so, for Democrats, it’s important to understand that whether we are able to achieve certain policy objectives is going to be primarily dependent on how many votes we’ve got in each chamber and our ability to move public opinion.It is not going to be as dependent on classic deal-making between Democrats and Republicans, or on my or subsequent presidents’ playing enough golf or drinking enough Scotch with members.The moment in which I realized that Republican leadership intended to take a different tack was actually as we were shaping the stimulus bill, and I vividly remember having prepared a basic proposal that had a variety of components: tax cuts, funding for the states so that teachers and firefighters wouldn’t be laid off, an infrastructure component, and so forth.We felt that as an opening proposal it was ambitious but needed, and that we would begin negotiations with the Republicans and they would show us things that they thought also needed to happen.
It’s convenient for them to present those personal interactions as the basis for why things don’t happen, but the problem hasn’t been personal interactions.Probably the best signifier of that was when Chicago had the bid for the 2016 Olympics and a committee had flown to Copenhagen to make their presentation.On the flight back, we already know that we haven’t gotten it, and when I land it turns out that there was big cheering by Rush Limbaugh and various Republican factions that America had lost. But at that point, Limbaugh had been much clearer about wanting to see me fail, and he had, I think, communicated that very clearly to his listeners.And it only goes so far — to the present, that is, when the president, like the rest of us, watches uneasily over the final weeks of a very unsettling campaign that even he describes as a referendum on his presidency and the profound cultural changes that came with it.“When I came into office, my working assumption was that because we were in crisis, and the crisis had begun on the Republicans’ watch, that there would be a window in which they would feel obliged to cooperate on a common effort to dig us out of this massive hole.
The conversations I have privately with Republicans are always very different than the public presentations that are made of them.