Obama’s Invisible Second-Term Agenda
Democrats are incredulous that Mitt Romney didn’t mention U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan during his nomination acceptance speech. But if Romney was AWOL on Americans fighting and dying to prosecute the first war set in motion by the atrocities of 9/11, President Obama’s description of his second-term agenda is just as invisible.
The easiest way to trip up a Democrat in Charlotte for the national convention is to ask him to answer this question: What is Obama’s vision for a second term?
The placeholder answer, of course, is “creating an economy built to last.” But this talking point has, even to Democrats, begun to wear thin. It’s often repeated, but lacks definition.
“Nobody really knows what that means,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who handled Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010. So even though Obama’s reelection slogan is “Forward,” there’s not much talk—at least not yet—of what the country would move forward toward, or of the specific policies that Obama would enact to propel the nation up and out of the current low-wattage economic recovery.
Would it include comprehensive immigration reform? Would it include tax reform? Would it include changes to Medicare and Medicaid beyond those in the 2010 health care law? Would it include any effort to limit greenhouse-gas emissions? Would it include any sustained effort to reduce poverty among African-Americans?
Obama knows all too well that subgroups of Democrats have been clamoring for these initiatives for years. He promised to submit a comprehensive immigration bill in his first year in office. Still nothing. African-American supporters, still strongly in Obama’s camp, are nevertheless aggravated by his refusal to identify inner-city poverty as a priority. And although Obama contends that his 2013 budget contains entitlement reforms, that budget carries no weight on Capitol Hill, and Democrats regard GOP efforts to call it up for a vote legislative shenanigans. Obama hasn’t moved a muscle on legislation to combat climate change since a House-passed bill died ingloriously in a Democratic-controlled Senate in 2010.
Reelection campaigns are typically defined by the incumbent’s policy achievements and what they tell voters about what is to come. Obama has spent precious little time extolling his accomplishments in that area, with the exception of laws requiring new and widespread financial regulations and ensuring pay equity for women. ...