I am skipping over a lot of things to bring this series of posts to its conclusion. What I had hoped to illustrate was that in a heavily toxic and partisan climate, with the opposition party not the least bit interested in seeking ways to address our most pressing issues, President Obama has done a remarkable job of getting things done.
That said, he did so very carefully and a lot of his major accomplishments have been met with criticism from his supporters for not going far enough. But as I said in the first post, he has had to be careful and the laws passed had to be as moderate as they were because going “all the way” would not have worked in the aforementioned toxic climate. Which brings me to my theory: Obama is looking towards a second term in which he will more forcefully push for a progressive agenda.
Now, it is entirely possible that Obama is not the progressive I think he is and that what we are seeing now is not a “compromised” position, but Obama’s true way. But I have my doubts. So, if he has been cautious as part of a long-term strategy, he has positioned himself to be more aggressive in his second term, assuming he has the numbers in Congress to do so. Which leads me to another shrewd game Obama is playing: letting his opponents get riled up, run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and pretty much make themselves unappealing as a governing party so that by 2012, it is quite likely that he will once again have a Democratic majority in Congress (assuming Republicans take back the House this November, which could be a good thing for Obama and the Democrats in 2012 since the Republicans are in such disarray right now and splintered between the Tea Party types and true conservative ideologues) and the political capital to get more shit done.
By 2012 the economy should be on much better footing than it is now and the Republican party may be even more splintered if things continue as they are. And add the possibility of Sarah Palin as the GOP nominee, or even better, a third-party candidate, and Obama’s chances of re-election look very good. His supporters will come out in droves as they did in 2008 and he will once again get a mandate to govern differently than his opponents would, a mandate that will only be strengthened if Republicans do in fact hold a majority in the House from 2010 on and try to repeal the health care law and the financial regulatory bill, two of the things they have said they would do (sadly, though not surprisingly, I am unable to find their party platform for this year).
So with a win in 2012, which in itself Obama is carefully and shrewdly positioning himself for, we will have another four years of, at the very least, more forward-looking policies. Though it is my hope that Obama has been playing possum and will, once given a second-term and no longer concerned with re-election, progressively confront issues like climate change, immigration, the drug war, and perhaps, re-visit already passed legislation and make it better. I understand he cannot do it alone, and that his approval ratings will matter in 2014, but still, a second term could shore up what history will one day look back on as a transcendent presidency for its times.
I will end by paying homage to the man who inspired these posts, Andrew Sullivan, by sharing his latest thoughts on Obama’s success to this point. Like Sullivan, I think Obama is the best we have; I only hope the best of Obama is still to come.