Thursday, January 1, 2015

There’s no team in Obama

(written 11/17/14)

The weeks between the end of an election and the start of a new Congress are filled with activities similar to those going on behind the scenes with a major league baseball team. Returning players are taking time off before the new season and the leadership is putting together plans for the next year. Upcoming MLB winter meetings will include a job fair and opportunities for teams to come together and discuss the rules that govern the game. Most importantly, the meetings provide a chance for teams to hammer out complicated trades that could be the difference between winning the championship or ending up in last place, like the Sox did in 2014.

In politics the trading took place on Election Day and the midterm losses for the Democratic party should be a wake up call to the leadership and to the Obama administration that many Americans are not happy about the direction of our government and were looking for a little “change.” While presidents typically suffer some midterm losses, the losses of some specific seats — like Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Begich in Alaska —  signal real problems for President Obama. Hagan and Begich are young and engaging and ran good campaigns, so their losses are seen almost exclusively as a referendum on national issues. For most leaders, huge losses — and some near misses — would indicate that something needs to change. However in recent days, President Obama has indicated that instead of working with the new leadership in Congress, he’s planning to dig in on controversial issues during his lame duck years and using executive orders to act on his initiatives. That’s not leadership — it’s petulance — and it can only spell disaster for Democrats in 2016 and beyond.

That’s right — just as the Bush presidency has cast a long shadow over Republicans in New England, an Obama presidency that ends with two years of his acting unilaterally will have a serious impact on the Democrats’ ability to win the presidency in 2016 or to pick up seats in the House and Senate. As a firm occupier of the center, I can’t decide whether having a president who thinks he’s king is worse than having the pendulum of American politics swing too far to the right, but I think we are about to see both scenarios in the coming years.

This week halls of Congress are hosting orientation for new U.S. Senators and Members of Congress (mostly Republicans) as they learn about the nuts and bolts of their new jobs. At the same time the Red Sox are working to reshape their team — starting with a new pitching rotation — to make them winners again in 2015. It’s unfortunate that as others work to learn their jobs and plan next steps that there’s no introspection and little sense of a “lessons learned” coming from the White House. By 2016 this stubbornness will have Democrats wishing that there had been a team in Obama rather than an Obama on the team.

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