I think that Obama’s recent run of political miscalculation at home and abroad has cost him dearly in the court of public opinion that all politicians must rely on in order to get reelected to their jobs. Whether or not someone agrees with Obama and his agenda, he has created an atmosphere in Washington, the United States, and the world that almost guarantees more fractiousness.
I have maintained for a while that the only way Obama can salvage his first term is by throwing away his idealism and intellectualism in favor of taking on a real, substantive issue facing America today in a way that could enjoy widespread support and have a real chance of succeeding. The list of such issues that Obama has not already somehow tainted grows steadily shorter, but there are still a few.
While I am not sure it is the only way Obama can win, William Galston writes at the New Republic that one of those winning issues could be meaningful tax and spending reform. All of the hullabaloo and intrigue over the extension of the Bush tax rates has served to obscure the fact that the reason we’re in this mess to begin with is because the current system of taxation and spending is overly complex, inherently unfair, and is unsustainable in the long term.
I agree with Galston that, if Obama were to take this issue head on, he would garner widespread support and would steal most of the Republicans’ thunder in the next two years. Further, a real attempt to reform our taxation and spending system would produce real results that would be better for everyone. Obama has already proved he can move complex and controversial legislation through Congress almost by the force of his own will, so why not take this on?
If he does not, or does not take on something like it, I believe he is done. Unfortunately, at this fragile and fractious time for the United States, the ouster of a one-term president could prove to be more harmful than having a mediocre two-term one, especially given that whoever replaces him could conceivably be worse.