(Corrects number of Democrats in first paragraph.)
The stars are aligned for Barack Obama’s re-election in November 2012. He won’t join Jimmy Carter to be the second Democrat in 120 years to lose a second term.
Five things are playing in Obama’s favor.
First, the Republicans -- driven by their most conservative members in Congress -- will face a primary with many candidates who will advance harsh ideological positions. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump and others might as well be on the Democratic National Committee payroll. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s reverse Robin Hood plan to cut more than $6 trillion in spending over a decade will provide the outrage, stoked by a sitting president possessed of verbal discipline.
Second, the Republican governors’ attacks on unions are turning off the swing voters and Reagan Democrats in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Imagine the voter reaction if millions of workers lose their right to collective bargaining, and the impact that cuts in benefits and wages will have on their lives.
Democratic governors, such as Jerry Brown of California, Pat Quinn of Illinois and Andrew Cuomo of New York, are cutting -- but not taking away -- workers’ bargaining rights. This is a politically useful contrast for Obama. Reagan Democrats, who have won many elections for the Republicans, are a big plus for Obama in the contested states.
Third, no candidates are emerging to challenge Obama in the primaries. A discussion of Obama’s forgotten campaign promises and record would have public support among Democrats. Even so, the liberal base has nowhere to go to send a message about war, free-trade agreements, raising the minimum wage or union membership.
Nor does a third party or independent candidacy pose a threat, given the winner-take-all, two-party system.
Fourth, Obama has neutered much of the big corporate lobby’s zeal to defeat him. He decided from the beginning not to prosecute executives from Wall Street banking, brokerage and rating firms. Multinational companies are pleased with Obama’s position on trade, on not disturbing the many corporate subsidies, handouts and giveaways, such as the corn-ethanol subsidy.
Shelters for Wealthy
By 2014, Obamacare will deliver some 30 million subsidized customers to health-insurance companies. The auto industry is forever grateful for its bailout. Obama hasn’t moved on corporate-tax reform, tax shelters for the wealthy, or the preferential capital-gains tax treatment on the 20 percent service fees of hedge fund managers. Don’t forget last December when Obama agreed to extended tax cuts for the rich while the budget deficit gets larger.
The military-industrial complex about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned in his farewell address 50 years ago, is still uncontrollable, leading departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to express serious concerns. Obama has even surprised George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and his cohort of neocons, who can scarcely believe how militarily aggressive Obama has been on just about every move that liberals used to call impeachable offenses by former President George W. Bush.
Then there’s Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Co., who can attest to Obama’s outreach to big business. GE Capital was bailed out. The company effectively paid no federal income taxes on $14.2 billion in 2010 profit and received a $3.2 billion benefit. Immelt got a $15.5 million pay raise. And in January, Obama appointed him chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while letting him stay as head of a company receiving many government contracts and having regulation problems with the federal authorities. The corporate state doesn’t get much better than that.
Fifth, since the Republicans have little to offer by way of creating jobs, Obama need only show improvement in macroeconomic indicators, as Ronald Reagan did in 1983-1984, and proceed to showcase all the tax breaks he has signed into law for big and small businesses. Poor Americans who continue to bear the brunt of the recession are hardly going to vote Republican. It will be easy for Obama, with his oratorical skills, to paint the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as obstructionist, especially as he develops an economic plan for his second term.
There remain the Black Swans, events that defy prediction as those in Japan and the Middle East have shown. Handling them with firmness and calmness from the White House is what most people expect of a president. Obama will surely not repeat Bush’s mistakes after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Obama is averse to conflict with corporate power and disarmingly expedient in compromising with Republicans, leaving the latter to argue largely among themselves. The political duopoly lets the tactical Obama use the Bully Pulpit to his political advantage, even if his principles perish. Obama can look forward to four more years in 2012.
(Ralph Nader is the founder of Public Citizen and author of the book “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” The opinions expressed are his own.)
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