Last night has put President Obama into unfamiliar territory. For the first time he faces both houses of Congress in opposition to him. The president has only vetoed legislation twice. This let him easily play the GOP as “the party of No.” But if the GOP pushes reasonable legislation (and not try to impeach the first black president) Obama’s veto score will climb and he’ll be the “President of No.” How Obama will govern is a question. Two options that I don’t see available to Obama are:
1) Triangulate again. Bill Clinton made it an art form to take the best of the GOP congress and make it his own. He still claims it was all him. The GOP didn’t fall for this, which is why Senator Mitch McConnell pushed that the GOP must oppose everything Obama embraces including something in Obamacare that came from Heritage Foundation. This is how Bill Clinton godfathered the “GOP Party of No” because his popularity was built on GOP ideas he stole. The GOP congress will not allow this to happen even if it’s a flat tax.
2) Go abroad. Obama is not comfortable with the world abroad. Ironically from the party that believes in internationalism and global institutions, Obama’s political roots are local from his community organizer days. All of his campaigning from 2008 to now how has been decidedly domestic. He is not comfortable with foreign and defense policy. Biden, Gates, Clinton, Hagel, Kerry are considered foreign policy heavy weights on the left clearly chosen to make up for his weakness on the subject. But with Congress gone, Obama still won’t look for vindication abroad. He just never saw value in investing political capital abroad, especially since every foray has put him at odds with the left he loves.
With his options limited, Obama has two options to govern:
1) It’s all about me. He can push executive orders in defiance of Congress. The intent here is to restore his credentials among the hard left, a sheen that has faded with his wars abroad, leak hunting, journalist targeting, wiretapping and bungling of liberal wishlist items. In the process he’ll become a liberal icon but likely doom the Democrats in 2016 as a party out of touch.
2) Sacrifice for the party. He can take the election as sign, see his lagging poll numbers, and try to work on issues the Democrats can claim credit on and slow the GOP’s resurgence. He can get out of the spotlight and tap ideas from Democratic party potentials to rebuild their bench. The key issue for this one would be immigration reform. Latinos have soured heavily on Obama as they call him the “Deporter in Chief” something that won’t help Democrats especially if the GOP is poised to have a Latino candidate in 2016.
How he will go and how the GOP will position itself in 2016 is what to watch for the next two years.