The President We Hoped For?

We’re about to find out, in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, whether President Obama plans to govern the way he ran for re-election—and whether, as a result, he just might become the kind of president liberals hoped he’d be in the first place. The single most surprising thing about the 2012 campaign (unless you’re a Republican still shell-shocked over the outcome) was that the “man from Kumbaya” completely rejected the Bill Clinton re-election model. It was the polar opposite of triangulation: This time, the Democratic incumbent won with a resonant message of liberal populism. And damned if it didn’t work—not just because Obama won, but because the central arguments he made to raise taxes on the wealthy and preserve government as a force for fairness and opportunity changed Americans’ minds in fundamental ways. When the man asserts, as he has been doing, that “voters agreed with me” on issues like tax increases for rich folks, he’s not blowing smoke.

Check out these numbers: A year ago, most Americans thought the deficit should be tackled through spending cuts alone. Now Gallup finds a 20-percent shift toward the president’s “balanced approach” that includes more tax revenue. In just one year, just one campaign, the country's moved from a Paul Ryan consensus to an Obama consensus. And in post-election polls, six of ten now agree with Obama that the wealthiest should pay more. 

That’s a sea change, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress know it. So far, at least, the president is talking and acting like a man who’s ready to use it. The “Grand Bargain” Obama of 2011, who appeared ready to sell out social programs on the cheap, appears to have been replaced by a much steelier version. For one thing, he’s now demanding double the revenue he wanted in those failed negotiations—$1.6 trillion rather than $800 billion.

“Mandate” is a word so horribly abused that it’s lost any meaning it might once have had. But when it comes to ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, that’s what Obama has got. He earned it with a campaign that did much more than win him another four years—it moved the country in a liberal direction on some essential economic questions. If he uses his second term to champion fairness and progressive governance—and if he keeps convincing more Americans to come along with him—we may yet end up with the new liberal society that the false dawn of 2008 had us dreaming about.  


So They Say

"You never write when you can talk, you never talk when you can nod, and you never nod when you can wink. You'd think they'd learn from white-collar crime. Don't they know that nobody would have been indicted since Ponzi if it weren't for emails?"

Congressman Barney Frank, on where David Petraeus and General Allen went wrong

Daily Meme: Long Live Election 2012

  • Political junkies have been resigning themselves to the fact that their favorite pastime of the past two years is now over—except, wait, there's more!
  • Arizona has yet to finish counting all its ballots—mostly provisional ones filled out by first-time voters who might not be so excited the next time elections roll around thanks to this mess.
  • Allen West refuses to admit he lost his House race in Florida ...
  • ... and many counties in the state are still counting ballots, causing some reporters to repeat the 2000 refrain, "This is like Groundhog Day! Every day I wake up and it's the day after the election!"
  • The 1,000 ballots that just showed up in a warehouse in Lauderhill won't help ease their pain.
  • There are some close super-local races still up in the air, like a county court seat in Georgia.
  • And regardless of the finality CNN's victory projections convey, complete with Musak accompaniments, for many people those uncounted votes are very important.
  • And of course everyone's favorite pundits—LuntzCarville, and Rove—are still going on and on about the election. It ain't over until the old white dudes stop spinning.

What We're Writing

  • Harold Meyerson on Nancy Pelosi: same job, new coalition (and it's one she helped create).
  • Abby Rapoport on the worst thing about Arizona’s uncounted ballots: the discouraging message the state is sending to first-time voters.

What We're Reading

  • Molly Ball explains why Republicans are suddenly gung-ho for immigration reform.
  • Ron Paul bids a not-so-fond farewell to the Congress—and to "psychopathic authoritarians" who "endorse government-initiated force to change the world."
  • Amy Davidson: No, there is no valid comparison between Eisenhower’s affair and Petraeus’s.
  • Obama nominates Judge William Thomas to a federal bench—which would make him the first out gay black man to be a federal judge.
  • TPM compiles the “six biggest freakouts over Obama’s re-election.” Which raises a question: Only six?
  • Alex Seitz-Wald pronounces Grover Norquist over.
  • Memo to Republicans: The Hispanic vote was about class, not race.

Poll of the Day

Are Americans fired up about the messy and inconsistent voting processes in their states? Damn right they are. A poll by the MacArthur Foundation finds that 88 percent of Americans who voted in last week’s election support establishing national standards for voting, including “the hours polls are open, who is eligible to vote, and the design of ballots.

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