Could I accept the re-election of President Barack Obama? When this idea was suggested, what popped into my head was a scene from “Doctor Zhivago” — the one with the protagonist slogging through a snowstorm toward a bleak horizon.
By E. THOMAS McCLANAHAN
The Kansas City Star
Obama re-elected. The nation laid waste.
One’s brain does odd things in the face of off-the-wall assignments.
The idea for this came from a photographer who thought me incapable of writing a kind word about the president.
But there have to be several reasons, maybe even 10, why I could accept Obama’s re-election.
So here goes.
1. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. Really. I see a man as slippery as anyone at that level when it comes to politics, but someone who’s essentially honest at a personal level — someone who was perhaps carried along by events, who by some backhanded miracle found himself in a job wholly unsuited to his temperament.
It must be torture to be an introvert in a schmooze-intensive world. As former aide Neera Tanden put it, “It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people.”
That’s hardly a crime, but it makes being president a lot tougher. But I digress.
2. He’s an exemplary family man. In an era when our greatest and least-remarked scarcity is that of loving, attentive fathers, Obama is a good dad.
3. Maybe the Republicans would be better off losing. This may sound like heresy, but the country and the world are so fouled up that no matter who wins, we’re still likely to be in bad shape after four years.
Let the Democrats handle the mess.
Sometimes losing creates bigger opportunities later, although this becomes clear only in hindsight. Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. As Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics noted, that set the stage for Ronald Reagan in 1980. If Ford had won, no deal; the Democrats would have had a better shot in 1980, and the Reagan revival would not have happened.
4. Obama could become a moderate. Seriously. Ryan Lizza had a long article in The New Yorker expounding this theory. Point one was that once freed from the need to face the electorate, Obama would also be freed from the demands of his base. He could tack to the center, if he’s so inclined.
5. Lizza’s point two was that Obama would be forced to become more moderate. This seems more plausible. Congress likely would be divided again. If Obama wanted to get anything done, he’d have to compromise.
6. And he’d be more willing to compromise because after the last four years, he might be more humble. I have a feeling he regrets his “you lost, we won” triumphalism.
7. Thus, his re-election could prepare the ground for agreements clearing away some of the legislative logjam. Which means …
8. There’s a chance Obama II could begin with the long-sought “grand bargain.”
9. I think these scenarios are pretty improbable, but maybe they’re possible. Politics is fascinating because it’s full of surprises. The times and the electorate demand action on a whole range of problems — tax reform and entitlement reform, the looming debt crisis and the anemic economy.
In the American system, things that must happen tend to happen, although there’s no guarantee they happen when we want them to.
10. So, Obama may regret the narrow partisan box he occupies. He may be looking for a way out of his box and into the history books as more than the first black president.
It may dawn on him that to get there, he will have to anger some key people in his own party.