At the same time, their legislative maneuverings — the buy-offs and back-room deals, the inevitable coziness with lobbyists — exposed the weakness of modern liberal governance: it tends to be stymied and corrupted by the very welfare state that it’s seeking to expand. Many of
This illustrates nicely the concept of historical time. In his book, The Politics Presidents Make, discusses how the progression of historical time makes it difficult for succeeding presidents, regardless of their place in political time, to accomplish their agenda. Douthat's point, essentially, is that institutional thickening--the rise of interest groups with their own agendas--make it nearly impossible to nimbly reshape government.
The larger point is that political time itself may becoming increasingly irrelevant. As Skowronek notes, increasing institutional thickening will make it increasingly difficult for all presidents--regardless of their place in the regime or their warrants for action--to succeed. The only way for them to do so is to constantly seek third way solutions--to triangulate. The good news is presidents can still be successful. The bad news is it becomes increasingly difficult to establish an enduring legacy and institute a new, longstanding regime.
For Obama to succeed in gridlocked government, he's going to have to learn the lessons of preemption from