How to win the 2nd term
January 21, 2013 2 Comments
Great piece from John Dickerson on what Obama needs to do to have a successful 2nd term. Short version: declare war on the Republican Party, step on its metaphorical throat, and consistently find ways to expose them for their extremism. The good news for Obama is that the GOP is just so cooperative on that extremism thing of late. Dickerson:
The president who came into office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat…
Obama’s only remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents. Through a series of clarifying fights over controversial issues, he can force Republicans to either side with their coalition’s most extreme elements or cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in disarray…
Obama’s gambit in 2009 was to build a new post-partisan consensus. That didn’t work, but by exploiting the weaknesses of today’s Republican Party, Obama has an opportunity to hasten the demise of the old order by increasing the political cost of having the GOP coalition defined by Second Amendment absolutists, climate science deniers, supporters of “self-deportation” and the pure no-tax wing.
The president has the ambition and has picked a second-term agenda that can lead to clarifying fights. The next necessary condition for this theory to work rests on the Republican response. Obama needs two things from the GOP: overreaction and charismatic dissenters. They’re not going to give this to him willingly, of course, but mounting pressures in the party and the personal ambitions of individual players may offer it to him anyway. Indeed, Republicans are serving him some of this recipe already on gun control, immigration, and the broader issue of fiscal policy.
Hard to say just how successful this will be, but it does strike me as the right diagnosis for the strategic context. Among other things, its hard to over-estimate the self-defeating extremism of much of the elected Republican party. Certainly seems they will accomplish a big part of Obama’s strategy for him.