|When can I see the Kill List?|
But stepping away from the political horse race for a moment (at some point you have to go get a Mint Julep), just what might we expect from a second Obama term? I have read much that was upbeat and hopeful, all in the vein that without the political pressure imposed by an upcoming election, he will be free to let his inner Liberal freak fly, and we will actually see some of that old Kenyan Socialism we've been hearing so much about for the last four years. I'm not so sure. I think at this point we know who Barack Obama is, how he perceives his role and what kind of legacy he'd like to leave behind. Oh, I have no doubt that we'll see a President with a greater sense of political freedom, perhaps with a willingness to take greater political risks to accomplish certain things. But unlike the hippies-with-unicorns contingent, I'm not sure this does anything to inform his policy choices. One can just as easily see him summoning the courage to buck the Blue Dogs and the Teabaggers as one can see him flipping a casual bird at the 'Professional Left'.
One does not have to examine Obama's background terribly deeply to reach the conclusion that he is almost certainly a Liberal at the instinctive level. But the career he chose to pursue is not "liberal activist", it is "national politics", and, as such, he did what any politician must do in order to be successful: he tailored his ideology and his policy agenda to the broadest portion of the electorate. And in America, that is somewhere to the right of center. I'm not a political scientist, but even I can see that Americans in general are distrustful of liberals in positions of power - possibly due to the opinions about communism that the American leadership cultivated during the Cold War - and it's hard not to notice that Dennis Kucinich and Jackie Speir, for all their talent, brains and energy, have virtually no future beyond their current positions, whereas Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio don't seem to have a ceiling.
So while I see very little in the way of significant shift in party power in November, with an Obama White House, a Republican House of Representatives and a (barely) Democratic Senate, I do see two almost immediate opportunities for the Democrats to flex a bit of muscle. First, the Senate will have another opportunity to change the rules before the new Congress is seated, and while I don't see anything close to the elimination of the filibuster altogether, it's certainly possible that they will reduce the almost unlimited power of the individual Senator to stop the legislative process, and perhaps make it possible for the leadership to force floor votes on political appointees and judges. Second, shortly after the election we will be confronted by another round of Debt Ceiling negotiations. There are two legal paths Obama could use to win this fight without having it - he could take the position that a debt ceiling is unconstitutional, as the Constitution does not countenance interference with the payment of government debts; or he could order the Treasury to mint a couple trillion dollar platinum coins and deposit them with the Fed to honor payments. Beyond that, when it comes to Republican loathing and obstruction of anything Obama, well, hold onto your hats - you ain't seen nothing yet.