Obama has obvious achievements (preventing a second great depression, Obamacare, Bin Laden, Supreme Court appointments, etc.), and may get one other domestic achievement or so. But increasingly, it is becoming obvious that we have entered a long war - - a fight that extends beyond the typical news cycle, midterm elections, or even presidential term. Although it is depressing, it is reasonable to assume that Republicans' lock-step intransigence means that the principal benefit of an Obama second term presidency will likely be defensive - - stopping a Republican radical agenda.
Am I raising a white flag? No, not at all. But the reality is that the right wing/Barry Goldwater/Tea Party Republican wing knows that it is now or never. They get it, and they are all in. It is why you see debt ceiling fights, sequesters, fiscal cliffs, government shut down threats, voter id laws, a permanent filibuster, and potential tampering with the electoral college vote system. It is also why you see the Paul Ryan budget passed right after Paul Ryan got defeated in the last national election. They get it. This is an important moment, and they won't get a second chance. And they are not going to stand down in the next three years.
Dream whatever you want about what Obama could achieve over the next three years. If Dems lose the next presidential election, a good deal of it will be reversed or thwarted. But . . . and this explains in part the current Republican feverishness . . . if Hillary Clinton can follow Obama? 16 years of a Democratic presidency may be what is needed to break the Republican "fever." Not Obama's reelection.
What does this mean for Obama? It means taking the long view now. Start paying attention to the mundane aspects of government power. Nominate judges like crazy. Seed the appellate bench. Focus on NLRB appointment fights more than deficit battles. Use the executive branch powers - what can the EPA do about climate change? What can the DOJ do about Wall Street banks? Work with governors on gun control. Realize that budget "grand bargains" are not just unattainable, but unhelpful right now. Don't cave on any entitlement "reform" now if there is still time for that issue to play out in a Hillary presidency. Work on regaining state houses and legislatures. Pass smart regulations. Consolidate, defend and set the stage for the next president.
Individual presidents don't like to think this way. Obama said he would like to be a "transformational" president. I wish he could be. But sometimes the challenges are greater than a two term presidency. Think of FDR. Obama needs a Hillary presidency, just as Hillary needed the two term Obama presidency before her. Together, they can do a lot.
Just keep your eye on the sheer grinding benefit of time. The other side is.