After igniting the rocket ship of hope that helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency, political strategist David Axelrod is headed home to Chicago.
Axelrod dreamed Obama could ride his surge of supporters into Washington, D.C. and change its culture. Twenty months later, he is trooping back to his home town, dejected and defeated, says Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.
"I do get frustrated by the group pathology of Washington sometimes," Axelrod told Politico's Mike Allen on a webcast interview this week, "the who's up and who's down and doing everything through the prism of the latest poll and election."
The nation's capital has proven impermeable to change before. President Jimmy Carter rode a crest of hopefulness when he arrived in town in 1976, but his band of hopefuls soon learned change can be a four-letter word in Washington.
Out-of-control economics created a sharp backlash against Carter as he sought re-election in 1980, just as a lingering recession could undo Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill and in statehouses around the country and bedevil Obama's bid for a second term in 2012.
Milbank says Obama and Axelrod hoped to pass legislation while taming the political culture of Washington. D.C. An obstinate Republican minority, procedural rules in the Senate and a rising tide of voter anger dashed those hopes. The real choice for the Obama administration to get anything done was to play ball, cut deals and demonize opponents – the way of the world in Washington.
Perhaps fittingly, Axelrod heads home with more than crushed ideals. He told Allen during the webcast interview he has a parasite, which has caused him to lose more than 25 pounds. That would make anyone wish to return to a comfortable Chicago bar seat.