Broken Government? American Politics in the Obama Era

Iwan Morgan, Philip John Davies
School of Advanced Study, Institute of Latin American Studies
Subject Areas


Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008 generated widespread hope that the United States was entering a new era whereby government, in a reversal of Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum, would be the solution to the nation’s manifold problems amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Obama election slogan of “Yes We Can” seemed to voice a hope that new leadership would put right what had gone wrong with America. Within a short time, however, “Yes We Can” gave way to “No We Can’t,” as America’s government became enmeshed in gridlock and political polarisation. This led to a debate as to whether American government was broken and in need of substantial procedural and political reform. This volume, with contributors drawn from both the US and UK, offers an international perspective on one of the most important political questions of our time. They review the causes of America's governmental dysfunction and assess what can be done to put matters right.


Contributors v

Introduction: Broken Government? 1

Iwan Morgan

1. ‘Hail Gridlock’? Hamiltonian energy, Madisonian institutions

and American dissensus 11

Andrew Rudalevige

2. What’s wrong with Congress and what should be done about

it? 33

James A. Thurber

3. Singularity, separation and sharing: Richard Neustadt’s lessons

for politicians and political scientists 59

Nigel Bowles

4. Tenure reform and presidential power: the single six-year term

proposal 77

Niall A. Palmer

5. The politics of the US Budget: a metaphor for broken government 101

Iwan Morgan

6. Losing voice, losing trust: the partisan dynamics of public

evaluations of government in an era of polarisation 123

Brian F. Schaffner and John A. Clark

7. Two years of achievement and strife: the Democrats and the

Obama presidency, 2009–10 141

Alex Waddan

8. The rise of the Tea Party movement and American governance 163

Edward Ashbee