Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Four More Years, So Now What?

A few thoughts after Barack Obama's re-election victory.

First, it is a triumph.  Obama is one of those rare incumbents able to transcend the difficulties of his time, notably the recession, and persuade a small majority of voters that his medicine is the right one and that he remains best placed to steward America through the bad times.  FDR was the notable other, and he was a reformer too.

Second, Obama's victory speech.  Having secured his second term, he then resurrected the soaring eloquence we associate with his earlier victory and which had been sorely absent from too much of his own campaigning this time round.

Third, the congressional races.  Although the composition of the two chambers hasn't much altered - the Democrats remain in control of the Senate while the Republicans have kept control of the House - there is food for thought for the Republicans from some of the seats they have lost or only just held on to.  With only 10 Republican held seats to defend this time round, they have had a poor night, losing Massachusetts and Indiana and failing to take Virginia, as well as losing Olympia Snowe's Maine seat to independent Angus King who is likely to caucus with the Democrats.  The Republicans might want to reflect on whether the Tea Party has done them much good, and what the long term future is for them if they continue to hunker down behind a wall of non-co-operation.  The Republicans in Congress are as ideological as they have ever been, but now they face a president with no more elections to fight.

Which brings us to the fourth issue.  What will President Obama's strategy be with regards to the House?  The last two years have been one of Congress's least productive ever.  If the president cannot find a way to break the partisan impasse between Democrats and Republicans, then he does at least have to hone his political communication skills to the extent that his agenda and actions are properly explained to the American people.  His and his party's aim would be to regain control of the House in 2014, but they can only do this if they display a much more canny approach than they have over the past couple of years.  It might be time for new leadership in the House to help with this.  Nancy Pelosi is a combative and abrasive Minority Leader; possibly not the person to try new strategies in a divided capital.

Obama has avoided the stigma of one-termism, but his next four years show no sign of being any easier than the four behind him.  If he wants to leave a substantive and positive legacy, he needs to hit the ground running for his final term.

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