Fareed Zakaria discusses Obama’s options for the near future now that he has been reelected and won his tax increase on the rich. He points out that Obama has two clear paths available. One is to become a partisan liberal warrior, refusing to deal with Republicans and win political victories for his party. The second path is that of the deal seeking pragmatic centrist. Zakaria feels Obama is set on remaining a centrist:
But Obama has chosen the second path. In late January, as soon as a group of Republican and Democratic Senators joined forces behind a unified approach to immigration reform, Obama signaled his support for it. And this week, in urging Congress not to allow the so-called sequestration process to force massive spending cuts, the White House said Obama’s budget proposals to House Speaker John Boehner were “very much on the table.” Those proposals include entitlement reforms that arouse immediate opposition from Democrats. Obama might be doing this because he wants to notch some legislative accomplishments and leave a legacy.
Zakaria also makes an interesting point in that although many would love to see sweeping reforms enacted, they are not necessary to keep America from succeeding:
If Washington can tackle some of the outstanding issues facing the country, it could create a virtuous cycle. The American economy is recovering. The housing market is slowly re-emerging and will boom again as America’s population grows over the next few decades. The energy revolution is lowering costs for manufacturing while adding jobs in the energy sector. America’s financial sector is in better shape than those of most rich countries. And American households have rebuilt their balance sheets; our savings rate today is higher than that of frugal Canada. A new Congressional Budget Office report has deficits returning to precrisis levels in a few years.
We don’t need a grand bargain. Even moderate reform–on immigration, gun control, energy policy and (most difficult) the budget–would give a powerful boost to the country, beyond the specific economic impact. Politicians could demonstrate that they can actually govern. Everyone would get some credit. America would have found its center.