Although for decades the minority had leveraged the higher vote threshold as a means to block specific nominees, increased polarization between the parties was evident after Obama’s election, particularly for executive nominees. According to The Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire,” of the 56 times Senate majority leaders sought to cut off debate for executive nominees between 1967 and 2012, 23 occurred during the Obama presidency. The marked increase in leveraging since 2008 convinced many formerly opposed to the nuclear option that these leverage attempts were excessive.
The only group in this hyper-partisan policymaking realm that is under-leveraging is citizens, as public opinion is manipulated by partisan policymakers more interested in defeating the opposing party than in engaging the public in a discussion about the trade-offs associated with difficult policy choices.
An over-leveraged Washington needs to recognize that pursuing the leverage mean would be good both from the standpoint of politics and policy. Leverage functions best in policy-making when significant good effects are the result of well-positioned forces. The courts, including the Supreme Court, will decide how much Obama has over-extended his legal authority, but the court of public opinion needs to call over-leveraging when it sees it.
David M. Anderson, Ph.D., is the editor of “Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework.” Samantha Woolsey Ball, Ph.D., is a contributor to “Leveraging.”