In his February 19 Washington Post column, Ezra Klein states, “If [Obama] wins, the single most important accomplishment of his second term would be protecting the gains of his first term.” He goes on to argue that with the House and/or Senate likely being Republican-controlled, Obama's accomplishments in a second term would be limited, and that protecting the health care reform Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform Dodd-Frank would be it’s overarching theme.
I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree. In a February 1 USAToday op-ed, David Jackson recaps an Obama fundraiser in Washington, D.C., in which the president echoed the tone of his State of the Union address in a few areas. In two of those, it is fairly easy to decipher a second term strategy, rather than that of simply protecting his accomplishments:
1. Energy: "How do we, yes, make sure that American oil production and natural gas are properly produced, but how do we also make sure that we’re still investing in clean energy?"
President Obama has already stated he would like to vastly increase the production of both electric vehicles and clean power sources in the near future – one million electric cars being produced within four years and 80% of all energy being from clean sources by 2035. In a second term, the president would likely push this agenda by asking Congress to increase funding to alternative energy while simultaneously decreasing oil subsidies. National polls have found this to be a popular way to reduce the deficit, meaning Obama could potentially take this fight with Congress – assuming opposition from Republicans – to the American people.
A second area Obama touched on in his speech was taxes:
2. Taxes: "How do we make sure that we’ve got a tax system that reflects everybody doing their fair share – because if we’re going to bring down our deficits and make investments in our infrastructure and our basic research, then we’re going to have to do it in a balanced way."
Tax policy seems to be at the forefront of the national discourse, both from the right and the left. The way to a better tax system is hotly debated, however the overwhelming majority of Americans favor changes to the current system, whether it be a “flat-tax” or increasing the top tax bracket or letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire.
In a second term, Obama would likely also take this battle to Congress under the guise of reducing spending and increasing revenue – or as he would put it, “everybody doing their fair share.” If the polls hold true five months from now, Obama making a push on any composition of legislatures to profoundly look at our tax code should be popular to most Americans. It is also likely the American Reinvestment Act will be punted to the next Congress, making the 2012 Congressional elections just as much about Obama’s ideas as they are about an obviously failing Senate and House. According to a CBS News poll, 60% of Americans and 43% of Republicans favor increasing taxes on millionaires to help reduce the deficit. Obama should campaign on this idea, in essence asking the American public for some congressional help if they are also going to reelect him. This is portrayed as a liberal agenda, but in a second term Obama would have bipartisan public support for such an initiative and would really pressure any opposition from Congress.
Now, call it blind optimism if you would like, but this sounds like a platform that Obama would like to pivot to given a second term. Whether he would be able to get any of these things done with a split government is debatable, but I believe he could – even if that meant compromising to the point of moderate conservatism as he has done over and over again already.