Monday, October 22, 2012

The promise of an Obama second term

E.J. Dionne makes a great case today that Obama has a substantive and productive second term agenda, whether or not he makes the case for it as strongly as he might. After reminding us that Obama has in fact laid out a detailed deficit reduction plan -- attacked from left and right, but no less credible for that, he gets to what I consider the core:
Some dismiss what an Obama second term might achieve by claiming that it will be mainly concerned with consolidating his first-term accomplishments. If these had been trivial, that might be a legitimate criticism. But does anyone seriously believe that implementing a massive new health insurance program that will cover an additional 30 million Americans is unimportant? Can anyone argue that translating the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms into workable regulations is a minor undertaking?
Here is the case for a term of consolidation that I made informally, in a letter to a friend:
..personally I would be happy to see Obama win and play defense -- or rather, get what incremental change he can -- for four years. If he wins, an adequate debt deal will happen by default - the fiscal cliff will see to that. This time, he would hold all the cards, thanks to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the sequester -- and I think he's learned that the GOP is a bad-faith partner and that he can't win by being nice to them.  I'd like to see him fire DeMarco and get serious about mortgage writedowns -- and generally be more aggressive about appointments.

I'd like to see him hammer Republicans to pass pieces of his Jobs Act -- as he got the payroll tax cut last year, maybe he could get some infrastructure movement going forward, maybe as part of a debt deal. But mostly I want him to protect the legacy of the earth-moving 111th Congress: good implementation of the ACA w/ effective fighting against the GOP trying to strangle/starve it; reasonably tough rule-writing on Dodd-Frank; protection and continuation of initiatives begun with the stimulus.On the vision thing, I think his message is that he set the course.

If you look back to his thought-to-be-grandiose agenda-setting in 2008, he always emphasized that he wanted to make a beginning on various forms of fundamental change: to turn the battleship a few degrees on several fronts. Let him just build on that.  Let the ACA cost controls start to work; let energy investments go forward; let Race to the Top reforms continue in experimentation ; let treasury and other financial agency officials who aren't total shills flesh out the Dodd-Frank rules; and let his revival of our alliances and leadership of multilateral institutions continue.

Reagan changed the trajectory of American politics in his first two years; Obama will have done the same, if he gets another four years to protect the gains. 

Dionne also makes a strong case that if Obama wins, Republicans will have to deal on immigration, since it will have been the growing Latino population that defeats them. Combine that with Obama's leverage on the fiscal cliff, and the moderation of the GOP might begin at last.

It's hard for me to fathom the terror I'll feel for this country if Americans give Romney the chance to tear down Obama's firm foundation for substantive, constructive change -- on healthcare, balanced deficit reduction (dependent more than we acknowledge on effective healthcare reform), green energy, soft power abroad, and a general re-commitment to equity and broadly shared prosperity.

1 comment:

  1. Another way to phrase it is that if Obama wins, we'll have four years of struggle to consolidate some gains and make a few more.

    If Romney wins (given that he'll have a GOP Congress, and the winds of the elites at his back), we'll have four years of sh*t, where stopping any nasty piece of work will be a victory.