Doug Schoen and long-time Dem pollster Pat Caddell have penned a piece (and a peck of peppery punditry) running in the Washington Post Sunday, under the title "One and done: To be a great president, Obama should not seek reelection in 2012". In their op-ed, they spin an argument that President Obama's Presidency will not be successful unless he announces that he will not seek re-election. If he does this, the authors argue, he can achieve a greatness in leadership that will otherwise escape him.
Their hopes -- their argument are rooted in fantasy, completely divorced from political realities. As a fantasy, it's a particularly dangerous one, for both the Party and the country. Their prescription isn't going to result in a Presidency that reaches heights of greatness and rescues the country from myriad crises. Rather, they would ensure the failure of the Presidency and probably condemn the country to the seemingly inevitable, irreversible decline in which we find ourselves.
To begin with, Schoen and Caddell enter the hornet's nest of interpretation regarding the recent mid-term national election, and blithely accept the GOP frame that the
"midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents. "
Certainly, there is an argument to be made here, but it's also true that this was simply an election in which the opposition was far more motivated to turn out. Numerous polls show that the Democrats and especially President Obama remain more popular nationally than their GOP and Tea Party opposition. In two years, when Obama's name may be on the ballot, the results could be quite different.
The author's use the President's own words to direct their proscription, recalling the interview where he said
"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."
Acccording to Schoen and Caddell,
"given our political divisions and economic problems, governing and campaigning have become incompatible."
Schoen and Caddell say that Obama
"can restore the promise of [his] election by forging a government of national unity, welcoming business leaders, Republicans and independents into the fold."
By, "putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones," they claim Obama can transform the political culture and rally all sides towards a consensus of action to address the formidable array of problems and choices we face.
It's a seductive argument, to a point. That point is reached when whatever narcotics they took before writing this apparently drug-induced fantasy wear off. To illustrate, I'll pose two questions:
First -- What's lamer than a lame-duck Congress? Answer: A lame-duck President!!
Second -- Who is more irresponsible and unwilling to face and and address our most serious problems than the current GOP? Answer: No one!!
If Obama announces he's not going to run for re-election, will conservative abandon their unrelenting campaign to resist a three-percent tax raise on the incomes of their biggest financial supporters. Will they work towards ensuring that all Americans have affordable health care? Will Republicans work with Democrats on a sane response to massive illegal immigration? Will they be willing to drop their hateful, political useful discrimination against homosexuals?
Most importantly, will Republicans embrace science and accept scientists' diagnoses of our greatest problems and their solutions? Will the GOP suddenly abandon their puerile political pandering and face up to the seriousness of global warming and the failings of our national infrastructure? Will they agree we need to build more energy-efficient and attractive rail solutions, or will they insist on spending more money to build a few more highways that will clog up with wasteful, slow-moving automobiles? Will they encourage more wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy solutions or they will insist that we continue to line the pockets of the coal, oil and gas barons?
I think it's clear that the current batch of empowered conservatives won't see the "national interest" in any way resembling the vision that Obama and Democrats have. Republicans won't feel the same urgency Democrats have regarding these problems and most will find it expedient to deny these problems even exist. Even when they agree there are problems, they offer a very different take on these problems and they propose literally very different roads to remedies.
It's hard to imagine how Obama could bridge this gulf by simply abandoning a reelection bid and challenging the GOP to work with him. In fact, I'd argue this will only make the political roadblocks that much larger. Without the threat of facing an incumbent President who has already proven popular enough to turn out record numbers of voters, I don't see the Republicans tamping down their ambitions or putting aside their divisive propaganda.
Would Republicans agree to work with Democrats and the President to bolster more US-based manufacturing, or will they insist on allowing continued mass outsourcing that cynically bolsters the profits of their corporate masters and further weakens the GOP's union-based opposition? Will the GOP allow this government of national unity. Would the GOP work with Democrats to limit the explosion of money in our political system, given that the GOP knows the post Citizens United world gives them a vast fundraising advantage, especially if they continue to do what the richest corporate interests demand of them?
I can't see how this would be good for the country and I don't see it helping the Democrats in the next election. The GOP will continue to undermine the Democratic agenda because they believe it helps them politically. This dynamic has pushed Republicans to drive their party off the edge of reason, taking positions that are destroying the fabric of our democracy and weakening the economic position of our country.
If President Obama wants to work in the national interest -- if he wants to achieve greatness -- he won't get there by giving up on reelection. He needs to resist the GOP and defeat their vision for this country. He needs to sell the country on the merits of a progressive government that wants to do more than cut taxes for the richest more than kow-tow to the interests of greedy multimillionaire businesses and businessmen, wants to something more than and different from the policies that have gotten us into unprecedented economic weakness and global environmental peril -- that wants to do more than just drill more and pave more roads, and he needs to focus on limiting the un-democratic whirlwind the Supreme Court unleashed with Citizens United.
In short, Obama needs to get busy working on and fighting for his reelection.