While many political nerds will spend the day glued to their televisions watching the day’s proceedings unfold, many are wondering just what will be the defining issues of this second term. Historians are quick to note that second term Presidents are known to attempt for an overreach in power and many also face scandals of various sorts. Eisenhower saw his party get beaten pretty badly during his second term. Clinton saw an impeachment scandal. George W. Bush botched a disaster response and presided over the greatest economic calamity in nearly a century. Though despite this, Albert R. Hunt of the New York Times writes that President Obama is very much aware of these events and the other types of issues that second-termers face. To me, this is just another piece of evidence that President Obama wants to be remembered as more than the first African American President; he wants the first African American Presidency to be a good one in the history books.
The question that many observers are asking is; what can we expect from a second Obama Administration?
The Obama machine has been dubbed ‘No Drama Obama’ for years and he was able to make it through one term pretty squeaky-clean in terms of scandal and image. This is probably much due to his ability to be incredibly insular in regard to the people he surrounds himself with. I see this as partially being a good thing for him in that it reduces the chance that someone around him will do something stupid, but it does set up problems in regard to working with others. He doesn’t like schmoozing with Congressmen. His negotiations with John Boehner regarding the fiscal cliff went so poorly that the Speaker has told members of his party that he’s through negotiating one-on-one with the President.
I expect two things to happen more frequently in this term; I expect Obama to suck it up and attempt to build up some relationships with Congressmen and women and I expect him to pull out the Biden card, who, just over the last month negotiated a deal with Republican Senators to avert the fiscal cliff and put forward a comprehensive gun control package to the President. If Joe Biden really does have Presidential aspirations in four years, expect to hear that he is much more involved in just about every policy-related thing this Administration is doing.
It’s pretty well-documented that the first two years of this term will be about immigration and gun control. Unlike the first two years of Obama’s first term, he now has a Republican Congress that he absolutely has to work with in order to get something done. During the fiscal cliff vote, the Republicans that broke away and voted “yes” were overwhelmingly those in districts in the Northeast and far Western parts of the country, with the Mideast being split and the South overwhelmingly voting against the measure. Whether he likes it or not, Obama is going to have to start making an effort to talk to these people because if he doesn’t, then we aren’t going to see much accomplished before next year’s Midterms.