Frustrated with the fact that most competitive Democrats wanted him nowhere near their campaigns, President Obama made a big proclamation more than a month ago: Even if I’m not on the ballot, he said, you can bet that my policies are. If that was true – and exit polling shows that it is – then the president must be feeling like a rejected man on November 5th.
According to the New York Times, though, he’s feeling just fine. He sees the results as a misstep of Democrat strategy, and he believes that he could have made a difference had he been invited to stump for his party. Instead of viewing this election as a complete repudiation of everything he’s done in the last two years, he sees it as a failure of communication. The economy isn’t bad, you just haven’t realized it yet. Amnesty is great for America, you just don’t know it yet. ISIS is no problem, just wait and see. This, apparently, is an accurate description of the president’s mindset.
It would be easy to laugh at such delusion were it not for the fact that we still have two more years of this guy. While he’ll be regarded as a lame duck for much of that time, he still has plenty of power. And if he wants to turn the White House into a palace of obstruction, there won’t be much Mitch McConnell can do to stop him. The Republican base, if not the general voting public, has made it clear that they want change. Conservatives don’t want to end gridlock so much as they want to roll back the worst of Obama’s policies. If the president doesn’t want to cooperate – and there are few indications that he will – we’re in for a long, slow, frustrating 2015.
The People Have Spoken
The repudiation that Obama denies is hard to miss. Nearly 60% of voters told exit pollsters that they had a negative view of his administration. 70% felt that the economy could be a lot better. These are direct rejections of the direction of the country, and it takes a kind of willful ignorance to pretend that they aren’t. Unfortunately, “willfully ignorant” is a state of mind that Obama habitually embraces.
Republicans have a golden opportunity over the next two years, but they don’t have the executive branch. They’ve made life difficult for the president for much of his tenure, and it’s hard to imagine Obama is ready to extend a peace pipe to avoid political annihilation. The two issues that concern Republican voters the most – Obamacare and amnesty for illegals – are the two that he is least likely to bend on. He is concerned with what all presidents are concerned about at this stage: securing his legacy. It’s already obvious that he views Obamacare as an important part of that legacy. If Republicans want to repeal it, they’re going to have to find a way that doesn’t include a White House signature.
The next two years will be interesting for a number of reasons, but conservatives who thought a Republican Senate would mean big changes for the country may be left wanting. If McConnell and his majority play it right, though, they could set the stage for Republican dominance in 2016. Use Obama’s arrogance against him. Use conservatism’s strengths against him. When the dust settles, let Obama’s failures pave the way for a new era of Republican leadership.
In the meantime, watch out. Obama is a man with little to lose, and that could make the next two years very dangerous.