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If the Congress is unwilling to pass your agenda, then you usually just have to deal with not having your thing. That's the point of separation of powers. Going the extra-constituional route as a matter of course fed the GOP's reflexive opposition.

I don't think that's what "balance" of power means. If you have one branch that for all the things says "NO!", then I think it's natural for the other branch to say, "I'll try it a different way instead of trying to compromise, because there's no point in even trying." That's the implicit threat that makes the legislative and executive branches negotiate and get stuff done.

The difference in the climate today is that one party was essentially saying no to anything Obama might do. Even if they privately agreed or could find some ways to agree with him, they knew that if they so much as smiled in his direction they'd get primaried and kicked out. That climate poisons the relationship between the branches, and gets you to non-standard processes which we can all agree are sub-optimal.

For a balance of powers system to work you need to actually have a working relationship between the branches. It's not going to work if one says, "NO!" then expects the other branch to take their toys and go home. In the real world, we all have to accept compromise toward our objectives, and if we don't we'll get disaster for all our objectives down the line.

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