If I may repeat a thought from September 8, mentally converting the conditional into the indicative as I reread:
With breath held as the billion-dollar Romney air assault kicks into
post-convention gear, I am also prepared to be proud. Step back and
contemplate that in the face of 8-plus percent unemployment, and a
united opposition that has sabotaged and demonized his every initiative
for 44 months, Obama remains at least a slight favorite for reelection.
Renewing our vows would be even more awe-inspiring than electing Obama
in the first place.
In the euphoria of 2008, it was possible to think that racism was losing
its potency, was not a major factor in our politics. After we lost that
innocence, after four years of more and less racially coded attacks,
from birtherism to Gingrich's food stamp president to Romney's subtler
charge that Obama doesn't understand what makes America unique; after
the death panel screams and the debt ceiling debacle; Obama's support has never fully cratered, and is looking
more likely than not to carry him over the finish line. His basic
competence, and intelligence, and dignity, and concern for the mass of
the people, and integrity are manifest enough that a large plurality has
always stuck with him.
Pundits moan no end about the stupidity of the electorate. Progressives
worry, with reason, about the effects of unprecedented and unaccountable
billions flowing into campaign coffers, and an equally unprecedented
willingness to base a campaign entirely on lies.
And yet, in the face of all, it appears more likely than not that the
race-baiting, compromise-ditching, economy-sabotaging,
government-gutting, corporate-controlled GOP is going to fail to fool
most of the people enough of the time to unseat Obama.
If he prevails again, it will be America's finest hour since the Voting Rights Act.
So he has prevailed. And let's pause for a moment to remember -- and, in his triumph, savor -- the rings of fire he has passed through: economic freefall. Implacable disloyal opposition from the day he was elected; sabotage and smear, to the point where the real effects of his economy-saving and built-to-last stimulus bill were erased from the public perception. The heaviest legislative lift since the Voting Rights Act, resulting in the most important addition to the safety net since Medicare. The midterm shellacking, followed by the debt ceiling debacle, out of which he salvaged a debt ceiling-free run to the present and massive leverage at the edge of the fiscal cliff, and after which he learned to hammer an opposition incapable of compromise. Whitewater rafting past the rocks of Supreme Court ruling on the ACA, Israeli threats to set the world afire, and European meltdown. Hard-won backdoor stimulus in the form of payroll tax cuts and unemployment extensions.
Obama knows how to be president now. He knows what his opposition is an dhow to deal with it. He is free to cement the pillars of his legacy, the long-term investments in the future: universal healthcare with evolving cost controls, a new banking regime dependent on rule-writing by an administration serious about curbing the industry's excesses, ongoing investment in alternative energy, moderating the Supreme Court, completing the gay rights revolution, a peaceful resolution to Iran's nuclear development, continued patient, subtle leadership in the continued development of multilateral institutions...the list goes on.
Jonathan Chait recently argued convincingly that Obama has been a great president. Second terms are notorious for setbacks and dissipated energy. More than most presidents, though, Obama has a full plate simply in the hard, essential work of implementing and building on his towering legislative accomplishments. I am confident that he will be a good steward of those works in progress.