by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Obama insists Republican opposition to his policies has forced him to boycott Congress and resort to governing by executive order. This is only partially true. Yes, Republicans strongly oppose his initiatives. But refusing to deal with Congress was Obama’s decision, his choice.
After the midterm elections this fall, Obama will have an opportunity to make another choice. There is a lot riding on the strategy he chooses for his last two years in office: his legacy, the fate of policies and programs he’s pushing in his second term, the election prospects for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, the likelihood that the country will continue to be as politically and ideologically divided as it has been in his six years as president.
It’s pretty simple why Obama should choose a new strategy, one in which he engages Congress, especially recalcitrant Republicans. The past two years have not gone well for him, his presidency, or the Democratic party. His popularity, as measured by polls on his job performance, has plummeted and shows no sign of rising. And Democrats face losing control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
On top of all that, Obama’s new proposals and initiatives have gone nowhere. Immigration reform, gun control, universal pre-K schooling, another economic stimulus—all have failed to rally the country, much less attract support in Congress. His foreign policy of retrenchment has weakened America’s influence around the world. His habit of impugning the motives of Republicans hasn’t gotten him anywhere.
Obama’s go-it-alone approach has sharp limitations. There’s only so much a president can do on his own. And when he has exceeded his presidential authority—as he has done repeatedly in revising the rules for implementing Obamacare and handling illegal immigrants—it has prompted lawsuits and waves of criticism.