A Synthesizer, Not A Divider

The rather banal view of "bringing people together" is such a cliche and so clumsy a phrase when describing Barack Obama's history of coalition politics. Jeff Rosen, who seems almost as smitten as I am, describes (reg req.) one such Obama moment:

After Obama was elected to the Illinois state Senate in 1996, he defended individual rights in a way that might have marginalized him: He joined only two other senators in voting against a bill to forbid convicts on probation from having contact with street gangs, and he voted against a bill to expand the death penalty to gang-related murders. But Obama nevertheless won the respect of police and prosecutors in Chicago by building those "alliances of consent."

One of his greatest legislative triumphs was a bill to require the videotaping of all confessions and interrogations in capital cases. Initially, police, state prosecutors, and the newly elected Democratic governor were strongly opposed, some death-penalty abolitionists viewed the bill as too moderate, and legislators were afraid of being soft on crime. But Obama led daily negotiations (without reporters) during which he emphasized his opponents' common values. At the end, the bill had the support of all parties, passed unanimously, and today has been adopted as a model by four states and the District of Columbia.