Reporting Jon Keller
BOSTON (CBS) – What’s the greatest privilege we enjoy here in our federal republic, the good old USA?
Why, the right to vote of course, and we certainly have ample opportunity exercise it, every two years for state legislators and members of the US House, every four years for president and governor, and every six years for US Senators.
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For most of those jobs, fundraising is a constant priority. And with all the media attention on the most powerful positions, the next campaign begins as soon as the last one ends.
Welcome to “the permanent campaign,” a reality of our political culture since the 1960s when, according to the definitive book on the subject by journalist Sidney Blumenthal, the old political system of bosses and parties was succeeded by a consultant and media-driven process in which campaigning never stops.
The poll-driven posturing of the campaign became the m.o. for governing, right down to the obsessive desire to win every news cycle. Governing for the long term, with a willingness to risk widespread public disapproval – once known as “statesmanship” – became obsolete, a game for losers.
The old ways hung on for awhile; Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill used to famously get together for a drink, argue with each other, and emerge with bi-partisan agreement on difficult issues, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
And now there’s a generation in charge in Washington in both parties that doesn’t know anything but the permanent campaign.
Thus, President Obama can agree that the Bush tax cuts are acceptable public policy in the wake of a 2010 GOP sweep that’s got him running scared politically, then turn around less than a year later and insist they are Satan’s work because the polls show everyone wants the rich to pay more. Fair enough, I guess; those tax cuts were a totally political maneuver by Bush to begin with, rather than thoughtful, long-term fiscal policy.
But you wonder if, at some point, anyone from either party can put the permanent campaign on hold, stop spouting partisan baby-talk, and get down to real business?
And you also wonder – even if they wanted to, do they know how?
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.