Glories of gridlock, perils of second terms

(Head On TV) Divided government continuing into 2014 and beyond may not be all that bad, especially as presidential second terms tend to go awry, says John Andrews in the November round of Head On TV debates. Not so, given Americans’ reaffirmation of Obama’s leadership and their impatience for government that works, contends Susan Barnes-Gelt. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over prospects for the now all-Democratic Colorado General Assembly and what it meant that voters approved most ballot issues. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997 and a presentation of the Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for November:

1. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

John: Congratulations to my Democratic friends for their big victory. President Obama will proceed with his agenda of fundamentally transforming America through bigger government and a weak foreign policy. Americans seem to be okay with that. Mitt Romney campaigned valiantly for freedom and limited government, but he couldn’t overcome the negative ads.

Susan: The Obama victory reflects not only a very smart and strategic campaign, but also recognition that the U.S. in 21st Century is more diverse, socially tolerant, less partisan and more independent than it used to be. A viable democracy relies on compromise and flexibility. Americans are sick of wing-nut ideology.

John: Compromise? Flexibility? There’s a concept. We’ll see how the left-leaning Obama does with the right-leaning House on compromising to tame the entitlement monster. His flexibility so far has been mostly with foreign bad guys like the Russians. Presidential second terms often go off the rails. Democrats beware.

Susan: When Republican leadership announces its primary goal is to limit the new president to a single term – it’s testimony to Obama’s tenacity that he still stands. Americans are sick of political grandstanding. Obama is a centrist – it will be up to your team to move to the center.

2. THE NEW CONGRESS

Susan: The 113th Congress will be a bit different than the 112th. Dems took several seats in the House, though R’s maintain control. Dems picked up seats in the Senate – thanks to far right Republican candidates. The 2012 campaign headline: Republican Party hijacked by Tea Party crazies and 18th Century luddites.

John: Americans said no to real change and yes to divided government. Speaker John Boehner is now the man of the hour, and time is short. The House, the Senate, and the President have only a few weeks to save our economy from crippling tax increases and our defenses from a body blow.

Susan: The resounding take-away from the 2012 election is the C-word: Compromise. Voters are clearly frustrated with extremes on both sides of the aisle. Biggest winners: immigration reform; the politics of inclusion, and a balance of tax increases and entitlement reform. Americans want a government that works.

John: Are you sure? Maybe they’d rather have gridlock. Individual liberty, civil society, religious freedom, and economic growth stand a better chance when we don’t get all the government we pay for. Every day Harry Reid and John Boehner are at loggerheads, and Obama is out golfing, is a good day for America.

3. COLORADO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

John: Congratulations to Colorado Democrats for holding the state Senate and taking the state House. Mark Ferrandino of Denver will become Speaker. His sexual orientation is his own business. But his political orientation is to the left, which is not good news for economic growth, energy exploration, or fiscal responsibility.

Susan: One party control of the legislature is bound to give our a-partisan governor, Dem John Hickenlooper, heartburn. If the Dems list too far from the middle on fiscal policy – Hick will be hard-pressed to advance his ambition. I’m optimistic that both sides will resist overreach.

John: When you speak of Hick’s ambition, do you mean the White House? Some say he’s so focused on 2016 that he won’t seek a second term in 2014. Then the fun begins. Meanwhile, one-party control of state government could lead to overreach on fiscal and social issues alike. Democrats beware.

Susan: The voters have no patience for overreach. And Hick is so good at commanding the bully pulpit, that he will prevail on fiscal issues. Any Dem who doesn’t support fiscal prudence is destined to fail. The guv is a pragmatist and superb arm-twister. The smart money is with him

Susan: Wow! I hoped we’d have a kumbaya moment—as in why can’t we all get along? Demographics are stacked against you. Ask New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie about shrinking government to drown it in a bathtub? Christie has tougher waters to navigate for those devastated by Sandy.

4. COLORADO BALLOT ISSUES

Susan: Colorado’s November ballot was littered with issues ranging from local tax increases to cleaning up the state personnel system and legalizing marijuana. Every question was overwhelmingly approved: local school bond issues; tax increases; state constitutional changes and legalizing marijuana. Margins indicate Coloradans are generous and optimistic.

John: I hate to say it, but America is moving left and Colorado is keeping pace. Voter approval for legal marijuana here and in Washington State, along with gay marriage in Maine and Maryland, signals a new moral permissiveness. Local tax hikes in a weak economy defy logic, but at least TABOR is working.

Susan: America is moving to the center, reflecting a more diverse, younger and socially tolerant electorate. The Republican party must re-define its principles to adapt to the less hierarchical and more flexible society. Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina reinforce the importance of federal policy and resources. Take that – Grover Norquist.

John: I love it when you Democrats give us Republicans makeover advice. We already have one party with disposable principles. The GOP will stick to the proven principles of America’s founding, thanks anyway. One of those is federalism, which now faces a test with our state’s pot legalization. Uncle Sam disapproves.

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