The Lame Duck: Looming Changes

For the past six years leftist progressive and labor-oriented centrist Democrats have been united behind Barack Obama who has had no interest in working with the Republicans, and only slightly more in working with his own party. Without a clear party leader, the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party factions have filled most of the public’s appetite for stories of political infighting.  The Lame Duck years of the Obama presidency will be quite different.

The first interesting question is whether the progressive wing of the Democrat party will re-pay Hillary for her years of loyalty and  the critical support that Bill provided Obama in the 2012 election. To their chagrin,  “Hillary the Inevitable” has the problem that she needs to distance herself from Obama’s increasingly unpopular foreign policy – no easy task since she was its face for four years. She has started early with her Atlantic interview which laid the blame for ISIS’s rise to Obama’s dithering in Syria, and rebuked Obama’s overall foreign policy with  “Great nations need organizing principles,  and ‘Don’t do stupid s___’ is not an organizing principle.”  The White House, Maureen Dowd, and Bloomberg have all responded predictably. Clinton’s calculation is that she must be innoculated from the “who lost Iraq?” discussion, and there is enough time for the progressives to get over it and get on her bandwagon. The maneuver may require more personal skills than she and Obama posess.

The broader rift between the Obama and Clinton camps goes back to the 2008 nomination battle when, for example, the Huffington Post dismissed her Senate career with  ” There is not one single example of any legislation with her name appended to it.”  (One could say the same about her time at State.) Progressives will never foregive her for her vote for the Iraq War. Elizabeth Warren will be available as an alternative vision – genuine; strident; against Clinton’s many Wall Street friends. The division is real, and will be evident, at least until there is a clear Republican opponent.

The second big difference comes with the likely  Republican control of the Senate. (2012 master prognosticator Nate Silver puts the odds at 60-40; The Washington Post puts it at 82%; Real Clear Politics projects a pick-up of 7 seats – one more than needed.) What would a Republican Senate mean?

– While there would be some grumbling among the Tea Party segment, Mitch McConnell would be the Majority Leader (assuming a win in Kentucky.)

– We’d be safe for a couple of years from another Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagen.

– The “do nothing” point would move from Harry Reid’s desk to Obama’s. As of the end of July there had been some 350 bills passed by the House only to go to Harry Reid’s Senate to die. Many were relatively trivial, and a symbolic batch dealt with repealing Obamacare, but many others  dealt wiith jobs, veterans affairs, natural resources, and the whole gamut of government activity. The most recent major example of Senate purgatory was the House’s $694 million response to the surge in young illegal immigrants. Without Harry Reid, presidential vetoes will abound, but more will also get done.

– Republicans would have an ability to frame the 2016 presidentiial election. Some things are easy – Hillary’s State Department would not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; a Republican Senate would present an early Obama veto challenge. Hopefully John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will be able to present a string of Republican alternatives – some of Paul Ryan’s budget thinking; tax reform; immigration reform; adjustments to Obamacare – that will demonstrate that Republicans do have ideas to get us out of this 65% “wrong track” rut – if only they had a president that they could work with.


This week’s video is a short example of Robin Williams at his quick-witted best.


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