Though he just may muff it, as he has muffed so much in this presidency of his, Barack Obama has just been handed a golden opportunity to rescue his legacy and to start doing some amazingly wondrous things for this country of ours, things he himself has said he wants.
The trick is to see that the supposed setback of Republicans taking the Senate and increasing control of the House is no such thing. The Republicans are now in a position in which they put up something positive or give up future success; there is in fact considerable common ground on a host of vital issues and, look, Harry Reid is no longer going to be Senate majority leader. That’s huge.
Some who wear ideological blinders don’t get it, but Reid has been the king of stalemate. This Democratic leader has been embarrassingly, preposterously partisan and has avoided votes on numerous measures so no senator in his party would have to take politically damaging stands. A result is that the Senate has been far more a roadblock to getting things done than the Republican House.
The new majority leader will be Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who won re-election over a Democratic opponent who even refused to admit she had voted for Obama. He is much more able than Reid, has shown a prior willingness to negotiate and cannot be so obtuse as to think the voters will not do to Republicans in 2016 what they did to Democrats Tuesday if sufficiently provoked. The trick is to put substance over duping efforts.
That goes for Obama, too. If he wants success in his lasts two years, he will roll up his sleeves, get in the mix of things, cut out the misleading divisiveness, respect rule of law and give up such autocratically minded ideas as deferring deportation for millions of illegal immigrants by executive order.
If, as has been advertised, he moves in that direction, he will alienate not just the GOP but the public at large. The most he could legally do is stop deportations for the remainder of his term when an effort to reach out to Republicans the right way could result in legislation doing long-lasting good.
Other possibilities? We need tax reform. Obama knows we need tax reform. The Republicans know we need tax reform. The result can be more revenue from a more bustling economy. More global trade deals would also boost the economy — get on with it. Let’s build the Keystone XL pipeline. Obamacare? The best of it should not go away, as the Republicans ought to realize, but the worst of it should, as Obama ought to realize. Debt needs to be reduced, regulatory mayhem needs to be seriously addressed, and we should do something serious about the needy.
One possibility is for Obama to call Republican Rep. Paul Ryan into his office, say he has read his extraordinary plan that could actually help people escape poverty, suggest a few revisions, and then work with him to get it passed. The president should definitely build on programs he has already launched to address the egregiously awful cultural issue of disintegrating families in America.
In considering all of this, I suggest Obama make reference, first, to another president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who found ways to meld political antagonists into a unified force.
Secondly, he should reread the nationally broadcast speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, raising him to national prominence as he said we are not red state and blue state, not liberal America and conservative America, but one people, one country, “a single American family.” That family just spoke up, and he should heed what it said.