Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The President and I Went to Costco Today

President Obama spent part of his day-after-State-of-the-Union-speech in a Costco store. So did I. I was shopping for food and general merchandise. The president was shopping for public approval for his pitch to hike the minimum wage and close the opportunity gap in America. But in a more distant, more important, sense, he was shopping for votes to secure his legacy.

Though he outlined half a dozen areas where he said he would take executive action if Congress did not act as he wished, 2014 will be remembered more for the impact the president will have on the elections next November than anything else.

Simply put, Obama must electioneer hard and long for Democratic Senate and House candidates to avoid facing Republican majorities during the last two years of his second term. If he fails, he will become the “veto president” as Republicans try over and over to undo any and all of the progressive legislation passed in the last five years, especially the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare. He also must support state candidates so more “blue” governors and state representatives and senators are elected.

Obama is surprisingly aloof for a politician who has achieved the highest office in the land. He does not mix well with his former peers. His disinterest in hitting the hustings in 2010 led to a GOP majority in the House and, more disastrously, to Republican victories in many state legislatures and governorships. In turn, that led to realignment of many congressional and state districts into safe, gerrymandered Republican territories, safe, that is, until the next census in 2020 mandates a new reapportionment of legislative seats. 

It might be impossible for Democrats to retake control of Congress until 2022. Keeping their majority in the Senate, therefore, becomes a priority, for Obama and any Democrat who hopes to inherit his chair in the Oval Office in 2017. So Hillary, Andrew, Joe and anyone else who has White House aspirations, now’s the time to really crave the type of chicken served at all those political dinners across the country. 

Aside from being aloof, Obama has also shown a tendency to have limited concentration on any one key issue, with the possible exception of sending drones or Navy Seal teams to excise terrorists. But if he is to be believed, that his presidency will be judged by how well he manages to place the country on a journey toward economic equality, he, and Michele, must hit the road, together and separately, to stump for Democrats. For it’s his legacy that is at stake.

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