Yesterday, the president finally did what he always wanted to do and what his followers on the left have been pining for. President Obama’s inaugural address was a lurch to the left that scratched the itch so many of his followers have had for four years. Finally, the cliches embraced by anyone who has ever worn a beret or attended a university campus protest wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt were all wrapped into one speech.
So now what? Does Obama have a plan to govern in his second term? What will he do about the real problems in America, particularly our stagnant economic growth and our dangerous debt? Nothing the president said yesterday on the West Front of the Capitol suggested that he has a plan for effective problem-solving. In fact, he didn't even mention the most serious problems.
The president has never been particularly good at governing, given the bothersome checks and balances we have in our system. Yet our problems today demand action — unless one intends for our problems to remain. I don’t think the president will completely abandon his responsibilities, but I also don’t think he is going to engage Washington in any effort to lead the political process to try and pass laws that make change and opportunity possible.
Since he won’t really try to govern through legislation, I expect Obama to stretch the limits and seek new ways to govern through regulation and litigation. American households had better get ready for higher power bills as Obama unleashes regulators in pursuit of new penalties for electric companies. Businesses should hunker down and expect that lawyers will assault them with new workplace requirements as new grievances are discovered.
Politically, the battle lines are being drawn, and the president is offering a vivid contrast. Now the Republicans have to do their part to offer smart policy and solutions. The left can wallow in their tiresome old slogans — I keep waiting for “Workers of the world, unite!" to return to the political stage.
Rather than blurring the distinction between Republican and Democratic solutions, the 2014 elections could be shaping up as a classic battle between the old left and a new generation of conservatives.