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A Second Obama Term

by John on 06/11/2012

Ryan Lizza

Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker has a good piece on what a second Obama term would look like.

Overall, Lizza confirms my earlier post on the lack of major differences between Obama and Romney.

He also cites the silliness we hear on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and talk radio that Obama would become a radical socialist.

In fact, he has governed more from the center. 

  1. He has been tough on terrorism; some would say he is equal to George W. Bush including diminishing the rights of some American-born terrorists who are now dead.
  2. The economy has improved since he took office.  Granted, the GOP says it is not enough.  But if you take any measured and common sense view of what we’ve gone through, the economy is on track to rebound as slowly as was predicted in 2008.  Remember, this is not 1980 or 1992: deficits are much higher; we’ve spent drunkenly on two wars; baby-boom retirement entitlements are ready to explode; and China and the developing world can compete with us economically.  Overall, he gets decent marks on the economy.
  3. He is facing a GOP content on beating him no matter what the cost to the economy.  Plus, the GOP has a disproportionate amount of campaign bribers with narrow interests that want to hold onto the status quo.
  4. The president is also facing racism.  It is not on the surface but it is clearly under the surface and affecting how people feel about him.

An Informed Not Inflamed Look Ahead

Some points to consider about a second term:

First, Obama has the history of three past presidents on how to get run the lame-duck four years.  He clearly is following the successes of Reagan and Clinton while foregoing the failures of George W. Bush.  The successes point to working together with political opponents – not doing a victory dance.

As Lizza writes:

If Obama aims to leave a legislative mark in his second term, he’ll need two things: a sense of humility, and a revitalized faction of Republican lawmakers willing to make deals with the President. Given the polarized environment and the likelihood of a closely divided Congress, it seems more implausible to suppose that Obama would turn radical in his second term than that he would cool to his Democratic base.

Second, Obama can actually fulfill what he promised in the first term like Clinton did.

Both [Clinton and Obama] pursued bold domestic agendas in their first two years before Republicans made large midterm gains in Congress, which led to repeated clashes over fiscal issues. The outcomes of Clinton’s battles, including the government shutdown of 1995, weren’t sorted out until after the 1996 Presidential election. An Obama Administration official told me, “The first year of Clinton’s second term was the resolution of the climactic moments of his third year. I suspect a similar opportunity will open up here.”

Third, Obama’s real legacy may begin at the end of his first term when he has to deal with a lame-duck Congress on the tax-bomb that is set to detonate on New Year’s Eve.

Clinton’s reelection victory made possible a breakthrough on the budgetary issues that had divided him and Republicans for two years. “The ideal conditions for both sides to come together and get something done are when you have a President who is at the peak of his power but is not going to benefit politically from it,” the official said. Solving Taxmageddon would be a major policy achievement, and Obama could argue that he had fulfilled his promise from the 2008 campaign: that he would bring the two major parties together to forge bipartisan agreements.

Fourth, I believe Obama would finally institute the needed Simpson-Bowles report.  Would it cause some pain?  Yes, but it would slowly increase taxes and reduce deficits.

Assumptions

Are we assuming Obama will win re-election?  No.  As of now, he seems to be the front-runner.  But it is only June.  We have a full summer of European financial disasters and Middle East armed conflicts to contend with.  Once we reach September, we will have a much better idea where voters stand.

We also can’t assume what the election will bring.  It will be a close vote in Congress.  Most likely, the GOP holds the House and the Democrats barely hold the Senate.  However, the big factor is the electoral success of the Tea Party, and if they’re successful, will they remain obstructive or turn to compromise?

Informed Not Inflamed Take

Where I stand: right now Obama is ahead of Romney on what should matter the most.  He has a clearer view of the future and what needs to be done.  Obama, more than Romney, will leave the status quo behind; the status quo in fiscal policy, energy, finance, and communications that is hindering our economy and the country’s future in the 21st Century.

Romney is too beholden to the past.  Many would say, and I would agree, that Romney culturally lives in the 1950s and economically lives in the 1980s.  Still, would Romney be a disaster?  No.  You would see more control of government by corporations — especially in energy, finance, and communications — that will slow down the advancement of new technologies that will give you a chance to start your own business and enterprise.

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