Come at the King, You Best Not Miss

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd at his election night party celebrating his victory over challenger Mitt Romney.

If you want a sense of how remarkable Barack Obama’s re-election victory is, think back to last summer. At the time, the president was struggling to reach a deal with House Republicans, who were threatening not to raise the debt ceiling and plunge the economy into a second recession. Unemployment was high—9.2 percent—Obama’s approval had dipped to the low 40s, and to anyone paying attention, the first African American president looked like a one-term failure.

But beginning in the fall, Obama began to reassert himself. With the American Jobs Act, he outlined a viable plan for generating economic growth and kick-starting the recovery. With his widely praised speech in Kansas, he outlined a populist agenda of greater investment and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Over the course of 2012, he built good will with important communities, from LGBT Americans with an endorsement of same-sex marriage to Latino immigrants and their families with a measure meant to emulate the DREAM Act. What’s more, the economy began to pick up: Job growth increased, unemployment dropped, and the overall economic picture began to brighten.

Together with one of the most hard-nosed campaigns of recent memory, Obama managed to bounce back from the nadir of 2011 to one of the broadest re-election victories since Reagan's 1984 landslide. At this point, news networks have called New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Ohio for President Obama. Only Florida has yet to be called, where the remaining votes are in traditionally Democratic areas of the state. Compared with 2008, Obama lost only two states: North Carolina and Indiana. When all is said and done, Barack Obama will have won re-election with 332 electoral votes—a much larger margin than the last president to win re-election, George W. Bush

Over the next week, I’ll write about the details of Obama’s victory, in particular his huge advantage with nonwhite voters—without historic margins (and turnout) among African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, it’s likely Obama would have failed in his quest for a second term. Indeed, it should be said that Republicans have themselves to blame for a good deal of this. If not for their categorical opposition to health-care reform, the Affordable Care Act would have never been passed in its current form. If not for their harsh approach to immigration, they might have won greater Latino support over the last four years. If not for their embrace of misogyny, they might have closed the gender gap. If not for their willingness to indulge the worst conspiracies about Obama, they might have made inroads with young people and college-educated voters.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting what Obama’s victory means for the next four years of public policy.

Obamacare will be implemented in full, and the United States will begin its journey toward universal health-care coverage. Millions of Americans will be covered by the bill’s Medicaid expansion, and millions more will—for the first time—have access to affordable health insurance. Likewise, Dodd-Frank will survive, and the federal government will begin to craft regulations that will—with any luck—prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse. Obama’s re-election shields core liberal commitments—on social insurance, anti-poverty policy, and environmental regulation—from conservative assault, and gives Democrats a chance to reshape the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary writ large.

Thanks to last night's results, liberals have four years to cement a host of policies and achievements that could prove as transformative as the Great Society or even the New Deal. And this is on top of an economic recovery that will almost certainly boost Democrats' standing with the public.

It’s still far too early to make a judgment about Barack Obama’s overall historical standing. But by virtue of winning re-election, he has become the most successful Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson, and one of the most successful of the 21st century.

Not bad for the skinny Hawaiian kid with a funny name.

Comments

I am elated and relieved, not only by the President's victory, but by the down ballot progress made in gaining seats, even if only a few, and preserving seats under challenge by "candidates" who belong in a sick sitcom rather than in reality! However, the progress will be limited as long as GOP radicals continue to obstruct. The President needs to KEEP THE OFA GOING in order to (1) alert voters to those obstructive efforts, (2) keep pestering members of Congress with samples of reasonable voter opinion, and (3) lay the groundwork to DEFEAT TEA PARTY radicals in 2014, beginning NOW. If we do this right, the LAST two years of the Obama presidency will see much more progressive legislation, and America will split away from right wing ideology enough to make the 2016 elections even more progressive.

Remember, the TP gang sneaked in at midterms because ONLY THEIR OWN hate-filled voters were paying attention. Progressives need to stay on the job during midterms and BETWEEN elections. Also, taking Murdoch's broadcast license away wouldn't hurt; there is an internet movement to do so, since he is obviously NOT serving the PUBLIC interest.

"But by virtue of winning re-election, he has become the most successful Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson, and one of the most successful of the 21st century."

Given there have been exactly TWO presidents in the 21st century and one of them was George W. Bush, arguably one of the worst presidents of all time, becoming the "most successful of the 21st century" is a rather low bar. Even Eastwood's empty chair could have outperformed Bush. Obama is not only the "most" successful, he is THE most successful. However, he is that not due to his re-election, but by virtue of the worst possible competition.

Perhaps we should revisit the issue of "most successful of the 21st century" after we have a bit more of the 21st century to pick from. Check back about 2090 and let me know what you think then.

However, I think Clinton due to his luck of the economy will be more favorably remembered than Obama, even though I think Obama's legislative success are better.

That was a cute way of pointing out the typo. Of course, people over 30 were accustomed so long to considering the 20th century to be the current one that "in the 20th century" was a shorthand way of saying "in the last hundred years." The 20th century was also a shorthand for "modern", i.e. beyond horse-and-buggy and gaslight, and after the U.S. became a world power. I assume the author meant "21st century" in that way, since he mentioned FDR and LBJ by name. A more accurate phrase would have been "the most successful in the last century" which would mean since 1912.

And depending on how you define the century divide, either the last 13 months or the last month of Clinton's presidency would keep W from EVER having been the "best" president in the 21st century!

And by the way, Rush Limburger could use an editor; I remember in the 1980's when his radio show was new, he blamed Jimmy Carter for the rise in oil prices, which began under Nixon due to an event that occurred two years before Carter even started to RUN for President. And he once stated that the U.S. has more virgin forest today than in 1776, which is obviously not true if you compare the SAME AREA on those two dates; he was comparing the virgin forest in the 13 ORIGINAL STATES to the virgin forest in ALL 50 STATES today, including Alaska, and omitting that qualifier ON PURPOSE to mislead his listeners. Oh, forget it, he HAS editors, he just pays them to get the facts WRONG, so you would not qualify.

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