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What Would a Second Obama Term Bring? : The New Yorker

Stashed in: New Yorker, Obama!, Lincoln, Fox News

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If Obama aims to leave a legislative mark in his second term, he’ll need two things: a sense of humility, and a revitalized faction of Republican lawmakers willing to make deals with the President. Given the polarized environment and the likelihood of a closely divided Congress, it seems more implausible to suppose that Obama would turn radical in his second term than that he would cool to his Democratic base.

The idea of a mandate from the people defies the intentions of the Founders and is contrary to the way that most early Presidents viewed their role, according to Robert Dahl, the Yale political scientist. Early Presidents argued on behalf of their policies with appeals to the Constitution rather than to the people. Even Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, who asked for sweeping new executive powers, did so with strictly constitutional arguments rather than with populist ones.

The concept of a mandate was essentially invented by Andrew Jackson, who first popularized the notion that the President “is the direct representative of the American people,” and it was later institutionalized by Woodrow Wilson, who explicitly wanted the American government to be like the more responsive parliamentary system of the United Kingdom. Like Jackson, he argued that the President was the “one national voice in the country.” Every President since Wilson has at least implicitly adopted this theory, and the Presidential mandate has become enshrined in our national politics.

Obama doesn't need to do much to have a lasting impact.

Appoint two Supreme Court justices and lots of other judges.

Use veto power to keep Congress from hurting the continued economic recovery.

Get out of Afghanistan.

And oversee Obamacare being implemented in 2014.

He'll need to take out Fox News to be appreciated for doing anything.

Regulate those Wall Street banks. Use oil tax revenue to invest in clean energy and renewable resources. Invest in empowering innovation.

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