Obama’s appointments and actions during his presidency have shown him to be a moderate Republican. His substituting of mediation with Republicans for leadership in fighting for progressive policy ceded the high ground to Republicans and caused the catastrophe that was the 2010 election. Since then he has ceded even more ground to Republican policy, including the disaster of cutting federal spending in the middle of a deep recession.
He has actually adopted Republican talking points in many of his speeches about the economy, buying into the false comparison between what voters should do in a recession, and what the federal government should do. As Obama has moved to the right in his policy decisions, the Republicans have moved even further to the right, until now Republican policy is essentially wacko Tea Party policy.
It is hard to see what he will do differently in a second term. It is not that he’s fought the good fight for progressive policy and been blocked by Republicans. He has actually agreed more with Republicans than with his progressive constituency. And, it is even harder to see how he will motivate progressive voters, which he needs to win, to the polls in 2012.
On the Republican side, if they win the presidency and both houses in 2012 will they continue their radical Tea Party policies when the results will be laid wholly to their doorstep? Not likely. Having a weak Democratic president that can be easily pushed around, and with their stated paramount objective being to make Obama a one term president, the Republican party has become radicalized. If they should win it all with a candidate like Romney, who is not a Tea Party wacko, they would likely return to a more responsible way of governing, especially if Democrats in Congress kept their feet to the fire and used the filibuster in the Senate the way Republicans have used it.
The time when a president can ignore his own constituency and get reelected has passed. Unless the Democrats field a viable candidate to oppose Obama in the primary, the energy on the Democratic side of the election will be so low it’s hard to see how voters will turn out in the large numbers needed to win. All the excitement will be on the Republican side of the election. If Obama were to win a challenging primary, that made him spell out how he is going to govern, it would give his constituency renewed energy to elect him. If not, it might result in a better candidate, or at least increase the turnout in the general election, which is necessary to maintain control of the Senate as a minimum.