Without question, the president intends to build on and improve the significant accomplishments of the last four years, particularly the full implementation of health care reform and the use of government policy to keep the economy growing. But the president went beyond that in his victory speech and added some less familiar words to his policy vocabulary.
Children should live in a world that is not burdened by debt or weakened by inequality, he said, but also one “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” That suggests he knows he has an opportunity to address climate change with more vigor, going beyond auto-mileage standards and renewable-energy jobs to possibly advocating tougher carbon emissions standards.
The president also said he was looking forward to working with Republicans to fix the immigration system, giving him a chance to do more than promote the Dream Act for young immigrants. He could lead the way to comprehensive reform that combines strong enforcement with a path to citizenship for immigrants already here. He also hinted that combating poverty might move higher on his priority list.
And he spoke of tax reform, an issue that will immediately begin to grow louder with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts at year’s end. Mr. Obama won re-election on an unambiguous promise not to renew those cuts for incomes of $250,000 or more, and his supporters expect him to stick to that vow. In coming months, after he persuades Congress to keep taxes from rising on the middle class, he should push to restore a fair estate tax and raise the low capital gains rate to the level of ordinary income.
He even mentioned the need to fix a balloting system that left thousands of people standing in long lines to vote this week, a tantalizing hint that electoral reform might become a priority.
All these agenda items require the same ingredient: ending his standoffish attitude toward Congress and working closely with any leader or lawmaker willing to make real progress. That may be easier now that Senate Democrats (and their independent allies) have expanded their majority by two seats to 55, many of them filled with newcomers more liberal and feisty than their predecessors, most notably Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The new Democratic caucus’s first order of business should be a reform of the filibuster that prevents its routine abuse by Republicans, and the majority leader, Harry Reid, suggested Wednesday that he supported some modest changes. The newcomers, along with the White House, should forcefully advocate that he go as far as possible.
A newly energized Obama administration and Senate could have the effect of isolating the supply-side dead-enders in the House. John Boehner, the House speaker, announced Wednesday that nothing had changed; he and his caucus still oppose higher tax rates for the rich and still want to pursue Mr. Romney’s defeated goal of raising revenue by lowering rates and cutting unspecified loopholes. Standing up to Republican recalcitrance on this and many other issues will require bringing to bear political pressure from the coalition that gave Mr. Obama a commanding victory in the Electoral College on Tuesday.
The president’s victory was decisive, and many who didn’t support him nonetheless told pollsters that they agreed with his positions on taxes, health care and immigration. He now needs to use the power that voters have given to him to enhance and broaden his agenda.
Link to the original article on The New York Times