The question in the lead of Ryan Lizza’s article in the New Yorker, The Second Term is What would Obama do if reëlected? If you expect an answer to this question in the article you will be disappointed. The closest thing you’ll receive, on the ninth page of a rambling ten page (online) article is a quote from Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe:
It took considerable arm-twisting to get Plouffe to think past the details of the daily campaign and consider the long view. “If we win,” he said finally, “January of 2017, what do we want to look back and be able to say? One, we’ve recovered from the recession. Second, our economic and tax policies in this country are more centered on the middle class and on people trying to get in the middle class. Third, the big unmet challenges—health care, education reform, energy, immigration, and reducing the deficit in the right way—we met them.
“We’ve also ended a period of war while taking out our leading terrorist enemies,” he added. “Think about that! That’s a pretty important book of business, and I think that’s the legacy he’d like to leave.”
I think that we can say with some confidence that whatever does happen in a second Obama term that list will not happen. At least according to present projections we’ll still have troops in Afghanistan and in all likelihood we’ll still be taking out leading terrorist enemies who will be replaced by other leading terrorist enemies who will be replaced by others.
With the arguable exception of healthcare the domestic agenda items were not addressed when the president was at the height of his power and influence—in the first two years of his presidency when he’d just been elected by a majority of the popular vote, something that eluded Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and was backed by Democratic majorities in both houses of the Congress. Is it likely that he will accomplish them now? With a Congress even more polarized than the one he faced in 2009?
If President Obama is reelected, I think we can expect three things:
- He will act as custodian of healthcare reform, his signature legislative accomplishment. His veto will prevent its repeal.
- He will appoint one or more Supreme Court justices. Since the justices most likely to die or retire are both in the liberal wing of the Court, that won’t alter the Court’s present balance.
- He will react to foreign policy challenges as they occur. And they will occur. Most of Europe may be in outright depression by that time. China’s housing bubble appears to be collapsing at the time of this writing. Syria continues to be in turmoil and we have not yet seen the fullness of the Arab Spring&148;. Iran will still be doing whatever it is doing, desperately trying to maintain its client, Syria, while it is doing it.
For some that will be enough. For others far too much.