Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obama's Second Term - A Foolish Consistency or a Risk-Free Do-Over?

When can I see the Kill List?
It's certainly not the foregone conclusion it appeared to be earlier this year, but I still think Barack Obama's reelection is the likeliest potential outcome in November.  I don't think the National Popular vote will be particularly interesting, but I think we could, once again, come down to one or two states battling over their electoral votes.

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.


  1. "I think we could, once again, come down to one or two states battling over their electoral votes."

    Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

  2. 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.

    Surprise! I disagree.

    Exhibit A: Social Security

    (MMfA is lagging today even more than usual, btw.)

    I think Obama is chasing Clinton's Gold™ ($75 million in speaking fees this past decade for selling out his voters to the corporations).

  3. Oh, toto, you had me at 'politically relevant'...

  4. I disagree too, mikey, but for different reasons than thunder.

    I just don't think Obama is all that liberal. Hillary wouldn't have been, either.

  5. Well, anything's possible, but while you guys are trying to read his mind, I'm just saying that an African American raised in Chicago who went to Columbia in the eighties has about a 90% chance of being, at his core, a liberal. Now, whether you're right and he somehow came out of that upbringing more Boehner than Ayers, or whether I'm right and he simply chooses to pursue more conservative policy positions because of the political calculation doesn't really matter. We end up with exactly the same result...