Partisanship is mainly a problem because of the filibuster, and though Axelrod and the President have lamented the tactic's prevalence, they haven't supported efforts to do away with it. They haven't even made it part of their communications strategy. Remember how often the Bush administration talked about up-or-down votes? As for the news cycle, the administration's critique of 24-hour news has always been that it doesn't really matter. And they're right. And if they want more long-term thinking, they should make more long-term proposals. Instead they've abandoned big stimulus projects and contented themselves with small-ball policies that they could pass rather than big-think ideas that could inspire.
Axelrod and the Obama administration may not like Washington. But the reality is, they haven't done all that much to change it. It's of course true that they've also been busy, and there's only time for so much in a term. But here, in the days before the election, we're talking about the Bush tax cuts and offshoring bills. There was room for a push on these issues, if only a rhetorical one. There was room for some new thinking on taxes. There was room for the Fair Elections Now Act. One of Axelrod's common complaints is that the president's supporters too often give up when faced with the grueling slog of change. But at times, so too does the White House.
I don't know if Noam agrees with this, but I do.
White House officials complain bitterly about the constraints the filibuster places on them, and rightly so. But they've expended relatively little energy speaking out about it and even less energy (as far as I know) actually trying to end it.
That's not the only reason for their political struggles or even the main reason, obviously, but it certainly hasn't helped.