“President Obama could become de facto Prime Minister Obama.” So much predicts Harlan Ullman, columnist for The Washington Times and a member of the Strategic Advisors Group of the Atlantic Council, at the New Atlanticist.
Washington isn’t just “broken,” writes Ullman. The very political foundation of the United States as envisioned in the Constitution has been undermined by the emergence of a presidency far more powerful than anticipated and the unwillingness of the major parties in Congress to compromise.
Indeed, the ideologically hardening of both Republicans and Democrats means that checks and balances have frozen the functioning of government. A dysfunctional system is now virtually inoperable when it comes to governing.
This is particularly unsettling with several major issues confronting legislators, health-care and financial reform among them. The former could be a game changer and a catalyst for making Barack Obama a “transformational president.”
With Republicans unwilling to work on health care, Democrats either have to accept defeat or force through “reconciliation” which allows passage with a simple majority in both houses of Congress. The use of a mere majority vote, notes Ullman, “will turn checks and balances and a presidential democracy into a de facto parliamentary system overseen by a prime minister.”
Because both parties are driven by ideology of its more extreme wings, the only way legislation and action can follow is for Americans to chose one of those two alternatives and empower one party to act.
Under such circumstances, the president will have to assume a greater role in leading Congress while the party out of power would bide its time until the next election.
The advantage of a prime ministerial system is that government can have greater freedom of action. The disadvantage is that ideology, more than before, will dictate policy making. “For both sides,” warns Ullman, “that ideology is almost certainly more extreme and does not reflect Americans’ preference for the center.”