No Honeymoon for Obama

>> Monday, November 17, 2008

The election of Barack Obama to the office of the presidency with the margin that occurred has sparked talk of a mandate. This has in turn sparked conversation about priorities and what obama is going to do first and how he is going to use the mandate before it runs out. The time frame given for Obama to get something done has merged with talk over Obama's first hundred days in office based on a "honeymoon period" where congress would be afraid to oppose such a popular president. This talk is wildly off base.

The American Prospect has an article up right now that discusses patience. Patience in acting and governing. It dovetails well with the point i am trying to make which is that Obama will not have a honeymoon period so he should not count on one but use his typical long term strategy to make the best out of his entire term.

Obama will need a full reservoir of that same patience in the White House, because he'll face similar frantic pressure and second-guessing. He will be surrounded by a crippling crowd of people and groups convinced that if their own No. 1 cause isn't enacted in the first 100 days, it will never happen. The conventional wisdom about the presidency is very much the same as the advice Obama was given in the primaries: Move quickly. Overwhelm the forces of the establishment. Use the momentum of the election to achieve the biggest things possible. You'll never be more powerful than on Jan. 21.
For all the romance of Franklin D. Roosevelt's first 100 days, history suggests that presidents do not get a mandate as a mechanical function of their electoral margin, but in fact they build it over time. They earn it not by winning but by governing. They assemble coalitions and use them again and again, and build institutions and make them work. While many good policies and necessary emergency measures were passed in the first 100 days of the New Deal, the innovations that lasted -- those that defined politics until Reagan -- came later, after FDR had consolidated power, forced the Supreme Court to accept a new set of assumptions about government's role in the economy, and won the 1934 mid-term election. Similarly, Reagan did not win a decisive mandate for conservative policies in 1980; rather, like Obama, he was the beneficiary of a coalition made up of equal parts support for his conservatism and revulsion at the previous administration's incompetence. It was not until August 1981, when he assembled bipartisan coalitions to pass his budget- and tax-cutting plans, that Reagan can be said to have had a mandate for conservative policies.

This is not to say that there aren't things that need to be done immediately, such as economic stimulus, closing Guantánamo, and a plan to get out of Iraq. But the changes that will bring about a new political era call for a more patient and steady approach.

Like Roosevelt and Reagan, Obama has the opportunity to become what the political scientist Stephen Skowronek calls a "reconstructive leader," a type that he notes often follows a failed presidency. "John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan -- these repeated historical pairings ... suggest nothing so much as an intimate connection between manifest incapacity and towering success in presidential leadership," Skowronek wrote the year George W. Bush was elected. Reconstructive leaders "are party builders; they use their authority to consolidate a coalition that will support the new agenda and dominate electoral politics."

Obama is acutely aware of the need for careful planning to achieve success. He is constructing a team of people designed around legislating and governing. He is also an organizer at heart and good organizers understand the value of patience and laying a good foundation before acting. Current indicators point to Obama trying to do what the TAP article suggests, a party and national restructuring presidency.

I mention that Obama should not focus too much on the first 100 days because he is not likely to find that time period more friendly than any other. The GOP minority is committed to fighting him on pretty much everything. People like John Kyl are ready to try and filibuster any judicial nominee and are committed to fighting a bail out of the auto industry.

Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama and Jon Kyl of Arizona said it would be a mistake to use any of the Wall Street rescue money to prop up the automakers. They said an auto bailout would only postpone the industry’s demise.

“Companies fail every day and others take their place. I think this is a road we should not go down,” said Mr. Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

“They’re not building the right products,” he said. “They’ve got good workers, but I don’t believe they’ve got good management. They don’t innovate. They’re a dinosaur in a sense.”

Mr. Kyl, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, added, “Just giving them $25 billion doesn’t change anything. It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning.”

There is no talk there of letting a president Obama go forward unopposed because he was just elected and we know the gop does not believe that obama has received a mandate,

When Franklin D. Roosevelt won his second term for president in 1936, the defeated Republican candidate, Gov. Alf Landon of Kansas, won only two states, Maine and Vermont, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress by wide margins.

But Obama's win was nothing like that. He may have opened the door to enactment of the long-deferred liberal agenda, but he neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities.

The Democrats fell several votes short of the 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate that they were seeking and also failed to get rid of a key Senate target: Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Republicans, though discouraged by the election's outcome, believe Obama will be hard-pressed not so much to enact his agenda but to keep his popular majority, which he considers centrist, as he moves to enact ultra-liberal legislation, particularly the demands of organized labor.

Obama is going to have to fight the GOP every step of the way. He will take his time and map out a strategy that he best believes will deliver success over his entire term. he gets 4 years in office so why would he waste all but the first 100 days? he wont.

Obama is committed to long term thinking. Everyone has probably heard his quote about how we cant solve global warming with him changing his light bulbs. He views the solutions to our problems as solvable only through collective action sustained over time. Instant fixes are not sufficient to deal with out problems. The notion that Obama, a cautious and pragmatic person is going to commit to the first 100 days or bust idea is wrong. He has no honeymoon period so dont look to see him acting as if he does.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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