That's the gist of the argument the more liberal wing of the Democratic party has been making throughout the Obama administration, and many of those "disappointed progressives" have turned in "I'm taking my vote and going home" think pieces in the past few months. Their ideological stubbornness is, in its way, as silly as that of Santorum, Bachmann, and the like—and just as counterproductive. This president is imperfect, yes. He's had to let things stand, some of them abhorrent. He has let down much of his base. In retrospect, he failed to take advantage of certain tactical advantages in the first two, Democratic-majority years of his administration, in a mostly doomed attempt at fostering bipartisanship.
The memory of that frustrating period—in which he appointed Republicans to his cabinet, embraced formerly Republican policies like cap-and-trade and the insurance mandate, and wasted an entire summer waiting for the three-and-three Senate Finance subcommittee to work up a bipartisan version of the healthcare reform bill—is so crystal clear for progressives that it's hard to muster up anything but stunned, down-is-up laughter at Romney's insistence that Obama is unwilling to work with Republicans.
And that's why the Christie-Obama pair-up this week could be devastating for the Romney campaign, because (as others have noted) it is a spiky refutation of Romney's partisan argument. It's not that Obama is incapable of working together with Republicans; it's that he has to find one who's willing to work with him instead of proclaiming "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Christie sings a different tune. "My relationships with Democrats, similar to my relationships with Republicans, are about getting things done," he said at a press conference the evening of Obama's visit to his state. "[I] could give a damn about the politics of things. I could care less today about it. The president of the United States came and offered help for the people I'm sworn to represent, and I accept his help and I accept his goodwill, and I accept his great efforts that he's put forward on behalf of our state. There will be some folks who will criticize me for complimenting him. Well you know what? I speak the truth."
One of Lincoln's emotional high points comes when Stevens, a vehement abolitionist who seeks racial equality in all matters, must take to the House floor and deny the full scope of his views. By insisting that he only seeks equality under the law, he can secure moderate votes for the amendment. But it is a matter of pride for the stubborn and steadfast congressman; his fellow legislators plead with him to keep his passion in check. "I beg you, sir, compromise," one tells him, "or you risk it all." Stevens swallows hard, goes to the floor, and soft-pedals his most deeply held beliefs. It is not a proud moment, but it is treated as such by the filmmakers, and when the amendment carries, Stevens says it was "passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America." When Lincoln is pressing his advisers to make the vote happen, his language is plain: "See what is before you. See the here and now. That's all that matters." And when it is done, he notes that, against odds, they have shown the world "that democracy isn't chaos."
Those are the words that resonate most in Lincoln's two-plus hours. After a term plagued by obstructionism, gridlock, and pettiness, it certainly feels as though our broken political system is nothing but chaos. Lincoln shows that it wasn't always that way. And Christie proves that it doesn't always have to be.