As Ed Kilgore observes “The one, and only one, truly bipartisan initiative Bush engaged in was the ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative, based largely on prior moderate Democratic proposals, and relying heavily on support from Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. George Miller.” This by way of looking at Peter Baker’s Washington Post on the dim prospects for NCLB reauthorization during the current congress that correctly places the collapse of the coalition Bush, Kennedy, and Miller had put together (though not particularly the Bush/Kennedy/Miller partnership as such) due to defections to the right and to the left.
One flaw in the piece, however, is that it seems to me to suffer from the problem Paul Glastris identified as the media’s tendency to attribute equal responsibility for rising polarization irrespective of the facts. Here, Baker correctly quotes Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling referring to the difficulty of making progress in “a toxic environment” that exists in Washington.
The specific problem here, however, isn’t that the “environment” is toxic, it’s that Bush is toxic — he’s been such a bad and unpopular president that many people believe anything he supports must be a plot to destroy the Republic and certainly nobody feels like sticking their neck out for such a heavily Bush-branded initiative especially under circumstances where failure to reauthorize the law doesn’t actually lead to its elements vanishing. That’s why many education people assume that while large elements of the NCLB framework will probably live on through the next education overhaul, the name “No Child Left Behind” is probably dead. NCLB, however, is just the current name for the more prosaic Elementary and Secondary Education Act and a new president not committed to the NCLB brand could just propose some modifications to the law (and everyone favors some kind of modifications), call it something else, and probably enjoy more success than Bush.