Obama Won... What Now?
Look, I don't know if the newly reelected President Obama will break free from the bonds of cautious mediocrity and act like the president he campaigned as. But we should give him a chance. He is the first Democrat to be re-elected with a majority of the popular vote since FDR. This was a big win, despite how the desperate Republicans and their media allies are trying to spin it. Let's see what he does with-- in George W. Bush's words-- "the political capital" he's earned. Let's see if he replaces Geithner with someone other than just another Wall Street shill. That will be a clue; after all, Wall Street lost big last night. Let's see if he does anything about what he said early in his victory speech (above) about fixing systematic Republican attempts at disenfranchising voters.
And let's see if he works on a Grand Bargain that doesn't screw over working families and seniors and that really forces the wealthy to start paying their fair share. The Democrats have a bigger and-- thanks to Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin-- more progressive majority in the Senate and, despite Steve Israel's gross incompetence, there are fewer obstructionist Republicans in the House. Reid says he's going to reform the filibuster so it can't be as easily abused by the Republicans eager to wreck the country in the hopes of partisan victories in the future. In yesterday's Washington Post E.J. Dionne outlined the contours and ramifications of the victory.
President Obama’s reelection was at once a deeply personal triumph and a victory for the younger, highly diverse and broadly progressive America that rallied to him. It was a result that ought to settle the bitter argument that ground the nation’s government to a near-standstill.Jim Manley, former spokesperson for Harry Reid, also tried figuring out what Obama's victory Tuesday will mean. He starts by ask if Congress got the message from the voters and if they're ready to move beyond partisan gridlock. Not Jim DeMint and Michele Bachmann of course; they're destructive sociopaths who aim to destroy everything around them. But, he says, McConnell and Boehner "have figured out that the tea party has done enormous damage to their brand, to say nothing about the economy, and that something has to change."
The president spent much of the year fighting the effects of a stubbornly sluggish economic recovery and facing implacable opposition among Republicans in Congress who made defeating him a high priority. He fought back by undermining Mitt Romney’s major asset as a private-equity specialist and by enlisting Bill Clinton as his chief explainer.
And he mobilized a mighty army of African American and Hispanic voters. They were all the more determined to exercise their voting rights after Republicans sought in state after state to make it harder for them to cast ballots. Latino voters turned out overwhelmingly for the president, guaranteeing that immigration reform will be on the next Congress’s agenda.
Just as important for governance over the next four years, the president took on an increasingly militant conservatism intent on vastly reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes even more on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built a broad alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government’s essential role in regulating the marketplace and broadening the reach of opportunity.
...Obama campaigned explicitly on higher taxes for the wealthy as part of a balanced budget deal. He stoutly defended the federal government’s interventions to bring the economy back from the brink-- and especially his rescue of the auto companies. It cannot be forgotten that saving General Motors and Chrysler was the most “interventionist” and “intrusive” economic policy Obama pursued-- and it proved to be the most electorally successful of all of his decisions. The auto bailout was key to Obama’s crucial victory in Ohio, where six in 10 voters approved the rescue. Union households in the state voted strongly for the president, and he held his own among working-class whites.
The president also called for higher levels of government spending for job training and education, particularly community colleges. And he spoke repeatedly against turning Medicare into a voucher program and sending Medicaid to the states.
The voters who reelected the president knew what they were voting for. They also knew what they were voting against. Romney paid a high price for his comments suggesting that “47 percent” of the electorate was hopelessly dependent on government. Writing off nearly half the potential voters is never a good idea. On Tuesday, a clear majority rejected that notion. It rejected as well Rep. Paul Ryan’s categorization of the country as made up of “makers” and “takers.”
The problem however will be in how both thread the needle, because the speaker may have to worry even more about his right flank given the fact Paul Ryan will assume a greater role, while McConnell, a cautious politician by nature, is going to have to make sure he doesn’t get a primary challenger in two years and deal with the push from the strong right wing contingent in his own caucus.
And at the same time the Republican leaders must rein in the worst instincts of many in their caucuses, the president is going to have to play a more forceful role in the legislative process. That doesn’t mean he needs to put out a new detailed long range plan but he does need to make clear he is ready to personally begin negotiating immediately with the congressional leadership on a short and long term options to keep us from going over the cliff.
If he does so, Republican leaders will need to decide whether to abandon the tea party and work together to address this nation's challenges.