Sunday, October 24, 2010

Keep your enemies closer

Well, if the president needs an enemy then China isn't working so much. The people just can't get behind the nuances of currency manipulation I guess. But it's true - all presidents eventually need an "other" against which to define their goals and future legacy.

Enter Republican-controlled Congress.

The left has to recoil from such a notion, but as today's NYT article points out, having a divided government gives Obama an early edge in 2012. That's very important, more so than this year's midterm elections.

Once the Republicans take control of Congress they'll have the same issues Democrats have had over the past two years: legislating from a majority highlights a party's internal dissent. The supercharged anti-everything Tea Party reps will find that it's nearly impossible to have a functioning congress without an appeal to the middle. I don't envy the fire-tanned Representative from Ohio. It will not be easy to lead this rowdy bunch.

Realistically, could the left have expected to hold on for two more years? The first half of Obama's presidency has been nothing short of surprising. Anyone who says differently is either a conservative or somehow believed Obama would with one wave of the hand make America Europe. Campaigns are never ever the same as governing. A look at the facts shows that despite his own party's incompetence and anxiety in the face of difficult decisions, Obama was able to usher through some of the most impressive legislation in generations. Health Care. Bailout. A new START treaty. And, he's withdrawn a majority of American troops from Iraq. Tom Dickinson hits all of this and more in the most recent Rolling Stone. Two years is all a president can really hope for in the American political system (unless your FDR, but then we'd need to be at war with half the world).

This productivity will indeed change after Nov. 2. No longer will the Democrats be able to push through sweeping legislation. But neither will Republicans, for there numbers will not be overwhelming. The pace of change will slow and Americans will instead see incremental change, some vetoes, and a whole lot of showboating and melodrama on the right side of the aisle.

As we approach Nov. 2 the president's approval rating sits just below 50%. His likability has not changed since the summer. Democrats are turning out in early voting (yes, they're still fired up, and what more, there's more of them with each passing year). In January, Obama will have a Republican House (and perhaps Senate) that will either play ball or kneel to the far-right demands of their party's newest members. Who will lead, Boehner or Bachmann?

Either way, Obama benefits. And 2012 begins to look a whole lot brighter.

(Unless of course you believe Obama is prophetic, in which case the whole world ends on December 21, 2012).

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