A new approach from the Obama administration
The Obama administration has pioneered the much maligned “lead from the back” legislative strategy. In the healthcare debates, for example, he acted less like a star player and more like a referee. On one hand, nobody likes the ref. On the other hand, he’s gotten results. The stimulus, the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, the DADT repeal. While the process has been frustrating, the results have led (and will continue to lead) to very tangible help for millions of people.
(There were some big misses too. I would have liked to see a comprehensive global-warming legislation and a sane immigration policy. In the current climate, I’m not sure either is possible. Raising energy costs during the recession is not a politically viable option. And, since economic suffering has given rise to xenophobia, I’d be afraid of any immigration bill that made it through Congress.)
That ended when the Republicans took power. Obama has fairly well held the line in ensuring there aren’t substantial cuts to his core priorities. And we’re even seeing some military cuts—which are awfully nice. But this is all playing defense. Nothing new is getting done.
The Obama administration has switched tactics again. He’s proposed the American Jobs act and laid out a credible deficit reduction plan. Both solid (and fairly moderate) legislative proposals. Neither has a chance of passing in its current form. However, they may well give moderates in Congress the political cover they need to address a comprehensive tax reform that includes some revenue increases. And that would be another legislative victory for the Obama administration.
In the meantime, rallying public support around good ideas will refocus the national political conversation.