The excitement, hope and sense of history which accompanied the early period of Obama's presidency now seem like distant memories even to many who counted themselves among the President's most ardent supporters. Obama's presidency has long since become just another presidency, now it is one that is struggling to stay afloat and to reassert a leadership role in American political life. Unless Obama is able to reclaim the political initiative, the new Republican leadership in the House will continue to fill political vacuum that has been created by an increasingly difficult Obama presidency.
Ironically, the Republican Party, by portraying President Obama as seeking to bring about the socialist apocalypse, and by stressing the strength of anti-Obama among voters, has spun itself into a similar corner today. Raising expectations is never wise in politics, but the Republicans have done just that in the last eighteen months. They have made this more of a problem by overstating the danger represented by the Obama presidency.
In the likely event that this bill passes, President Obama will be able to point to another major piece of domestic legislation almost immediately following the health care bill. The charges of socialism against Obama will not die down after this bill is passed; they may in fact get stronger. These cries, however, will become increasingly irrelevant. Some significant minority of the American people will continue to call Obama socialist almost no matter what, but this is beginning to look less like a problem for Obama and more like one for the Republican's, as they find themselves controlled by a radical and angry, right wing base.
The confirmation narrative will likely not look too different from the one surrounding Justice Sonia Sotomayor. President Obama will nominate a judge with a strong resume including a degree from an elite university. The judge will have a moderately liberal voting record and perhaps be a person of color, a woman or both. Liberal interest groups will support the nominee, but some more progressive groups will be critical of the candidate's pro-business history. The right wing will attack the nominee as yet another sign of the imminent socialist apocalypse and identify minor scandals and gaffes which they will seek to make into bigger issues. The nomination fight will end with the nominee being confirmed with almost unanimous Democratic support and perhaps the support of a small handful of Republican senators as well.
Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts immediately jeopardized President Obama's health care bill and forced the White House to figure out a strategy for what to do about health care reform and the bill itself. At least for the moment, the strategy seems to be to put health care on the back burner while focusing more directly on job creation so that the administration can demonstrate its awareness of, and try to do something about, the ongoing impact of the economic crisis, particularly with regard to unemployment.
Scott Brown's victory was a major victory for the Republican Party as it demonstrated that they are, at least for now, a political factor again, but in some respects it was less significant for the Democratic President and his party. The Obama administration, and his party, was in trouble before this special election given the ongoing economic problems, growing discontent with Obama's policies from, predictably, the right and, less predictably, the left, and a compromise on health care that only further angered these groups. The election in Massachusetts was additional evidence of a trend that was already strong, rather than a turning point of some kind.