President Obama began his second term with an unapologetic call to a Progressive agenda. His second Inaugural Address was a clear enumeration and statement of his vision for America over the next four years. It was unambiguously liberal in its content, and uncompromising in its delivery. It is the Obama we have been waiting for, and the one that Republicans have hoped would never appear.
The reaction from the right has been swift and predictable. They find it unfortunate that the President appears to be set on a path that is uncompromising and destined for confrontation. Yet, the path that they set for themselves in a secret meeting during the President’s first inauguration was precisely what they are accusing the President of today. At that meeting, the leadership of the Republican House and Senate agreed on a strategy that would confront every legislative effort put forth by the President, and deny him any legislative victory at all costs. This is the same Party that methodically developed a strategy of voter suppression during the last election and is currently working on altering the rules of the Electoral College to the advantage of the current Gerrymandered Congressional Districts, enabling states to divide the electoral vote by district majorities. Given the current Republican/Democratic Congressional split in America, it would make it very difficult for a Democrat to win the Presidency should this occur. This is the same Party that has threatened to shut the government down and has refused to allow legislation to reach the chamber floor for straight up and down votes. This Party of foul behavior does not have the right to yell foul.
The President, even before beginning his second term, signaled clearly that the next four years were going to be different. He won the battle over the “fiscal cliff” and has pushed back and won the battle over the debt ceiling. The Hastert Rule, requiring a majority of the majority to approve a bill before it is brought to the floor of the House, has been cast aside on two recent votes. There is currently discussion about modifying the filibuster rule in the Senate. Finally, this President Obama, buoyed by strong poll numbers and an unequivocal reelection, has made it clear that he will go directly to the people to press for his agenda. To enhance this ability, the recent transition of his reelection organization to a permanent non-profit support organization will provide him with the financial muscle to battle any lobby group apposing his agenda.
While there will always be, and should always be, differences of opinion on any given piece of legislation, it is possible and preferable for civility and reasonable compromise to occur. This is how our government used to work. However, when there are some that believe that their truth is the only truth, that their way is the only way, government stops working. The legislative process in a democracy requires open and honest discussion and negotiation. President Obama, as he begins his second term, has presented both his agenda and his preferred method of achieving that agenda. The President values open and honest debate, but rejects the uncompromising absolutism of the far right. Let those who think that they will thwart his efforts be on notice, this isn’t Obama 1.0, it’s Obama 2.0. Let the games begin.