Democrats March in Lockstep

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but in his latest column for National Journal, Ronald Brownstein points out that President Obama and Democratic leaders have achieved a level of party unity comparable to what was seen among congressional Republicans under President Bush.

The stimulus, health care, and (in the House) climate legislation have passed with near-complete support from lawmakers whose districts Obama carried in 2008. And Brownstein notes that this unity has a distinct political effect--another commonality Obama has developed with his Republican predecessor:

Bush's achievements demonstrated the benefit of that disciplined approach: Republicans smoothly passed his program despite narrow majorities and frequently strong Democratic opposition. But Bush's record also shows the risks. Although his forceful agenda generally thrilled his core voters, he infuriated the opposition party -- and eventually alienated independents, who found him too ideological.

Obama compromises more than Bush, but this president's determination to advance a bright-line agenda is creating a similar dynamic. With Obama inflaming the opposition party much as Bush did, a big conservative turnout in November seems guaranteed. To counter that risk, Democrats must hope that independents respond to Obama's success at getting things done (even if they don't endorse all the particulars) and that Democratic partisans are mobilized to vote by the president's dedication to the agenda he campaigned on.

So that's the cost of success, for Democrats: in unifying themselves, they've unified their opponents, to some extent, energizing the Republican base against the Obama agenda, as tea party-ism and fierce opposition from GOP leaders has followed the stimulus, the mortgage plan, and the year-long push for health care.

See Brownstein's full column here at