At his news conference on Wednesday, President Obama at least gave lip service to bipartisanship and compromise. But the first words out of John Boehner’s mouth made it crystal clear that the next Congress will be hopelessly gridlocked. The newly elected Republicans and the remaining Democrats are more radicalized than before the elections. And despite all the campaigning about the national debt, about the only thing the GOP seems prepared to discuss is cutting taxes.
So the big question is: What does Obama think voters were saying in Tuesday’s election? Certainly, voters are unhappy, but if he and his advisors think that their unhappiness was caused by government ineffectiveness rather than government overreaching or a general economic malaise, there’s plenty of room for him to maneuver on his own. He could take this opportunity to exercise his executive powers – a step he has been unwilling to take in the past 2 years.
In my opinion, Obama easily could start by getting much tougher on banks. The most important thing he has to communicate is strength. He needs to think about ways he can lead the country without his fate being tied to the Hill. And he could start by using his regulatory authority, enforcement powers, and prerogatives as commander-in-chief to make decisive moves that can’t be sabotaged by Republicans in Congress. Very few Congressmen of either party are going to have the intestinal fortitude to publicly defend the banking industry – and heaven knows it’s in need of real reform!
Once Obama has done that, he can maneuver for adequate implementation of the healthcare reform act. The administration has a vast capacity to act to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, regardless of what happens in Congress. So let’s see what Mr. Obama is made of.