The president wants to govern unchallenged. After a few weeks of not getting everything he wants, the president is going to bet all his chips on the possibility that he could be unchallenged in Washington for his final years in office if the 2014 elections go big for the Democrats. In other words, he is going to punt for the next two years. This is possibly the greatest abdication of responsibility we have witnessed from a president in the modern era.
I guess Obama knows his limits. He doesn’t like to govern and he isn’t good at it. He wants his leftist ideology to shape the United States undiluted and unquestioned. For this president, the current rate of the harm being done to this country is preferable to compromising and engaging with other leaders in Washington to make progress.
The president is most confident and fulfilled as a campaigner. He would rather travel the country and lead the permanent campaign, relying on his relative personal appeal, than take responsibility and govern.
What will the Republican response be to the president’s escalation of off-year campaigning? Their response will be to escalate off-year campaigning. And the public’s response to that will be to become more disgusted and disillusioned with our politics as no progress is made in dealing with America’s urgent problems.
As this Insider often repeats, “In American politics, what’s supposed to happen tends to happen.” Well, in the midterm election of a president’s second term, the president typically loses seats in both houses of Congress. I was working at the White House in 1986 when a very popular President Reagan lost nine seats in the Senate. The notion that Obama is going to defer governing until he has absolute control of both the House and the Senate is misguided on many levels.
Even the idea of nationalizing the midterm election is probably a mistake. A lot of candidates in midterm elections want to run proclaiming their personal independence from their national party, including from the incumbent president, and they also often want to run on local issues and address local concerns. And even if Democrats did win the House in 2014, who’s to say they would obediently follow the will of a lame-duck president in the last few months of his tenure?
The president craves applause more than progress. It’s a remarkable admission for the White House to make this early in the term. The president has surrounded himself with people who won’t challenge his biases, and it appears they’ve all signed up for the campaign trail rather than for the critical task of governing.