Much of what has been written about the parallels between Reagan and Obama focuses on the similarity of the circumstances they each faced during the first two years after being elected and their experience in that first set of midterm elections. For example, Time’s Scherer and Duffy write:

Just as Reagan’s revolutionary agenda coincided with a historic recession, massive employment and a humbling defeat in the 1982 midterms, … Obama’s new spending programs coincided with a historic recession, deep unemployment and midterms that cost the Democrats control of Congress. These parallels are quite fascinating. But to me, what’s most interesting about looking back to the Reagan experience is to see what lessons it holds for Obama’s efforts to grapple with the tension between the the forces of ideology and the realities of governance.

Once in power (by which I mean, once they have control of the White House), both liberals and conservatives tend to divide into two factions. On the one hand, there are the keepers of the faith or the true believers of either set of doctrines; on the other, there are the pragmatists — the people who are willing to sacrifice or amend the doctrine in order to achieve some desired result in policy making.

When they are running for office, liberals and conservatives typically promise the voters that they will establish a brave new world once they are elected, but the changes they actually are able to put into effect after successful campaigns are usually very small in comparison with their promises. (This is true, incidentally, not just of those who ascend to the White House, but also of new congressional majorities, as demonstrated by, say, the Republicans’ admission, one day after taking power in the House earlier this month, that their pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget in one year is impossible.)

In other words, both liberals and conservatives discover, once in office, that talking about governing (that is, campaigning) is one thing, but that governing is another. Governing requires that compromises have to be made; principles have to be bent, or on occasion abandoned. The world of ideology abounds with great expectations about the possibility of radical change, but the existing political system, as it operates on a day-to-day basis offers only limited opportunities for any such radical change.

Congress Passes Bill To Stop Obnoxiously Loud Commercials →

The fact that something like this requires a congressional act to get done is a little ridiculous.  Also ridiculous: that this sort of thing gets congressional attention and gets passed.  We can’t agree on much, but we can all agree that those commercials are just too-darn-loud. 

That being said, I’ll welcome the change in two years.  Until then, I’ll just enjoy Netflix.