Thursday, February 14, 2013

The long game of President Obama's transformational politics

While many of us on the left extolled the boldness of President Obama's State of the Union address, it also spurred a reaction by pundits and ideologues that basically amounted to "can't get it done." There might be some truth to that. Most of the ideas are likely to face something we've all become used to - a Republican commitment to obstruction.

But its also likely that there's a method to President Obama's "madness" on that front. First of all, as Jacob Weisberg says, the Republicans will have to consider the impact of their obstruction on the 2014 election.
While a few Republicans have signaled flexibility on immigration, the current House leadership is unlikely to take up a minimum-wage law or new spending programs. Obama knows that and has incorporated the reality of obstructionism into his political strategy. His big speech set what he hopes will become a lose-lose trap for Republican legislators: accede to his agenda, or face his mobilized supporters in 2014. In his first term, Obama’s message to the GOP was, “I will meet you halfway.” They refused to budge. His second term message is: “Compromise or pay the political price.”

To the public, the implicit message was: “If you want any of this stuff, I’m going to need a Democratic Congress next time.”
Secondly, Michael Tomasky takes an even longer view.
There’s an old joke in the politics world about mayors and governors who’d never approve a highway project that might take more than three years out of mortal fear that they might not be around to don the sash and cut the ribbon. Whatever problems Barack Obama has, he doesn’t have that one. A lot of commentators are amusing themselves by pointing out that very few of Obama’s long list of State of the Union goals are likely to make it into law while he’s in office. I say that seeing as how he’s a pretty smart man, he knows this. But he’s doing it anyway. Because he’s thinking more about history than his story, and because he understands that if he wants to be a transformational president, the change he initiates is going to have to continue well past his time—and yes, the great presidents have all thought this way... 
Barack Obama is going to retire in January 2017, but history isn’t likely to end then. Obama knows that fighting climate change and getting universal pre-school and doing something to help the working poor are big jobs, long jobs. They’re certainly not going to happen under the current legislative configuration, and they’re probably not going to happen while he’s in office.

But they are going to happen.
The only thing both Tomasky and Weisberg fail to talk about is the reason they're going to happen.  Some of the credit goes to Republicans. They gave Bush/Cheney 8 years and watched every one of their principles lead to abject failure. But President Obama - rather than fuel ongoing ideological battles - gave them the opportunity to either work with him towards solutions or paint themselves into an ever more extremist corner. Of course we all know that they chose the latter.

Now he has a majority of the public firmly behind his pragmatic progressive approach with Republicans totally marginalized. That is HUGE! After winning re-election, he laid out progressive principles in a way that Americans across a broad spectrum embrace during his Inaugural address and followed that up with specific proposals tied to those principles in his State of the Union speech.  We're currently watching him take that plan to people all over the country and engaging them via Organizing for Action.

What doesn't get done on that agenda over the next 2 years will become fodder on which the 2014 election will be fought. And what doesn't get done by the end of his second term will lay the foundation for Democratic victories in the future.

Its only those that are completely focused on the immediate who can't see the long game in all of this. That's their loss.


  1. Mo'nin, Ms. Pants

    JAMMin' as always. But, seriously....

    Ain't it just BEAUtiful, girl???

    I mean...can you even freakin' beLIEVE it?????

    1. Mornin' Blackman!!!

      It is truly a thing of beauty to behold.

  2. I just love all this good stuff that happens now that the President doesn't have to spend all his time cleaning up GOP messes and putting out fires. Have you noticed how his work schedule seems to have slowed down some lately? I think he's taking a more relaxed approach to governing now and possibly protecting his own mental health for the long term.
    Thanks for your analysis, Smartypants. Great read.

  3. I also think he has so much of this in place already. And it is being implemented behind the scene where the people aren't going to notice right away. He needs his cabinet posts filled and then all hell is going to break loose. I love this man, and am so glad I am alive to witness one great President. God Bless him and his family.


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