September 23, 2017

MICHAEL BARONE: A split in the party, a return to normal.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the president seems out of alignment, on policy and political goals, with his party in Congress. This strikes many as an anomalous, even alarming situation. But if you look back in history, it’s more like the norm, even if Donald Trump isn’t.

The current presidential/congressional alignment began in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke into the news. For several years before that, President Clinton engaged in what was called triangulation, positioning himself on issues between his party’s liberal congressional leaders and the conservatism of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

His collaborations with Gingrich resulted in serious bipartisan legislation — welfare reform, a child’s healthcare and Medicare package, and balanced federal budgets. In the process, Clinton pointedly ignored House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. That ended when Clinton needed solid Democratic support on impeachment for lying under oath about his Lewinsky affair.

A lot ended then.

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