As noted in a previous blog (1), our president has made it clear that he will not passively lapse into “lame duck” status, choosing instead to be very proactive on a variety of fronts. In the process, he is trying to pull off a “triple play”, the active parts of which will be described next.
Going to bat for the middle class: Concern over the state of the economy is slowly ebbing. What has been left behind and is shaping up to be the key issue going into the 2016 campaign is income inequality; a result of 30 years of congressional Republicans’ steady upward transfer of wealth through tax policy and deregulation. So, first and certainly most importantly, Obama is pushing a number of proposals that will help the working poor and middle class; e.g. a raise in the minimum wage, a higher salary “benchmark” to increase the number of individuals eligible for overtime pay, a more middle class-friendly Earned Income Tax Credit.
This multifaceted gambit poses a challenge to the GOP; i.e. either be responsive to the real needs of the average American by cutting deals with the president and thus prove you can govern, or stay on your path of favoring the rich and opposing anything that Obama brings to the table. It is the last half of this challenge that brings us to the second part of the “triple play”.
Pit congressional Republicans against each other: The Republican majority in the House is comprised of about 50 hard-line Tea Party conservatives (2, 3). They can almost surely be counted on to rail against anything that the president proposes and to vehemently oppose any conciliatory moves by their leadership to meet Obama anywhere near “half-way”. This obstruction will create an intramural fight within the party that will make it hard to pass meaningful legislation that addresses the issue of income inequality. In turn, this political “combat” will bleed all the way down to the grassroots level where traditional conservative groups will be arrayed against more reactionary right-wing organizations.
Drawing a “road map” for Democrats to follow in the 2016 campaign: In the next 22 months, each of Obama’s proposals that focuses on income inequality will get a thorough public airing. Polls will be taken to gauge the public’s responses (4). The results will tell Democrat candidates what to grab hold of, and how to shape a winning message to their constituents. This will apply no more strikingly than to the party’s presidential nominee. If Republican candidates cannot match that message with a more compelling one, then progressives will likely see another of their own back in the White House and several congressional seats “flipped” back into the “D” column. That could well mean the return of a Democrat majority in the Senate, and a weakening of the GOP’s majority in the House.
1. Recall “The ‘Lame Duck’ is Still Kicking”, published at this site on December 19, 2014.
2. Upon the start of the new Congress earlier this month, a group of approximately 25, of those individuals tried to unseat Speaker John Boehner with someone more sympathetic to Tea Party ideology. This move, which amounted to a coup, failed miserably.
3. Senate Republicans can count among their number, a smaller percentage of Tea Party members (e.g. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee).
4. In the last month, the president’s approval rating has ticked up, and polls also showed that the majority of respondents believe that the Democrats in Congress are more attuned to their needs and concerns.