How to win the 2nd term

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.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to How to win the 2nd term

  1. Bob Abdron says:

    Although this sounds juicy to my competitive nature,
    there is a smugness that always creeps in
    to situations like this – which is self-defeating. This, and the
    collateral damage which comes from resounding shock and awe
    defeats. The overarching purpose is to accomplish
    his goals – to improve the country as a whole.

    • Mike from Canada says:

      I agree with you, Bob. The President’s first job is to the American people and to do his best to do his job even if he’s constantly blocked.

      I”m not sure if Obama will have to do much for the Republican Party to destroy itself. I don’t think a fairly large section of the party can help itself. Their behavior isn’t just recent. They also hated Clinton with an unreasoning blind fury. It’s just gotten worse since then.

      Plus the base is still frothing angry at everything and Fox, Beck, Limbaugh and the rest are keeping them that way so it’s unlikely that they will get more reasonable Republicans in power any time soon. Fox and company has been working the base into a frenzy for a long time now and that’s the problem with using anger and hate as a motivator, for the most part you can’t just switch it off.

      I could be wrong, it may be that I’m getting a skewed view up here in Canada. Actually, it’s probably a certainty I’m getting a skewed view.

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