Obama can’t persuade or force congress to vote for bills
[--- presidents only succeed with big majorities]
Drum, 4/22 (Kevin, 4/22/2013, “Maureen Dowd and Presidential Leverage,” http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/04/maureen-dowd-and-presidential-leverage))
Still and all, maybe this is a good oppportunity to talk—yet again—about presidential power in domestic affairs. Presidents obviously aren't powerless: they have agenda setting power, they have agency rulemaking power, and they're always at the table since nothing becomes law without their signature. This provides them with a certain amount of leverage. But not much. The truth is that presidents have never had all that much personal power in domestic affairs.Modern presidents have largely succeeded when they had big majorities in Congress (FDR, LBJ, Reagan, Obama's first two years) and failed when they didn't. That's by far the biggest factor in presidential success, not some mystical ability to sweet talk legislators.
But there's more to this. Dowd's real problem is that she hasn't kept up with either academic research or simple common sense over the past half century. She's still stuck in the gauzy past when presidents really did have at least a bit of arm-twisting power. LBJ's real source of success may have been an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress, but it's also true that he really did have at least a few resources at hand to persuade and threaten recalcitrant lawmakers. The problem is that even those few resources are now largely gone. The world is simply a different place.
Party discipline, for example, is wildly different than it used to be. The party apparatus itself, which the president heads, has far less power than it used to have to compel support for a president's agenda. At the same time, parties are far more ideologically unified than in the past, which means that picking off a few members of the opposition party is much more difficult than it used to be.
And that's not all. Earmarks and pork barrel budgeting in general are largely gone. You can partly blame Obama for this state of affairs, since he was in favor of getting rid of earmarks, but this is something that affects all lawmaking, not just guns. The budget barons of the Senate simply don't have the power any longer to make life miserable for backbenchers who don't toe the president's line.