David Fahrenthold and Peter Wallsten write in the Washington Post today that Barack Obama is still a political Rorschach test:
If President Obama wins a second term, he will finally endorse same-sex marriage. Gay rights groups are almost certain. He will also make a new, historic effort to fight climate change — environmentalists are pretty sure. And Obama will finally do just what the Congressional Black Caucus wants. According to some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Conservative groups are equally confident that Obama, freed from the fear of losing his reelection bid, would deliver on far-reaching left-wing dreams. GOP candidate Mitt Romney forecasts a runaway spending spree. Newt Gingrich envisions a “war” on the Catholic Church. The National Rifle Association predicts a crackdown on gun owners.
There's really something pretty remarkable about this. You'd think that after three years in office — three years in which, frankly, Obama has governed pretty much the way he said he would — both sides would have cooled down. Nobody on the left would think he's the savior of mankind and no one on the right would think he's the second coming of Karl Marx. But apparently some on both sides still do.
What makes this even weirder is that even if you do think that, deep down, Obama is either hero or heretic, it's hard to believe that anyone really believes the stakes are all that high. Aside from the fact that second-term presidents rarely get very much done in the first place (cf. George Bush on Social Security and immigration reform), Obama is almost certain to face a Republican House and absolutely certain to lack a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't declare war on the Catholic Church and he couldn't pass a historic climate change bill.
Now, Obama will be able to consolidate the implementation of Obamacare if he wins reelection, and I suppose that many on the right have decided this is tantamount to the end of history. Because, you know, an accidental, wildly-expensive, crazy-quilt system that does a terrible job of delivering actual healthcare to actual people is part of the fabric of America handed down by the Founding Fathers. Go figure.
Anyway, here's my prediction: Obama will be reelected and will serve out a relatively uneventful second term. Yes, Obamacare will become the law of the land, and it's even possible that some kind of immigration reform will end up passing if the Republican brain trust finally figures out that their war on Hispanics isn't working out any better for them than it did for Pete Wilson. Probably not, though. Some kind of long-term debt and taxes deal is also possible, but I'd be hard pressed to bet money on it. Foreign affairs are a crapshoot, of course, but let's face it: for all the big talk, Obama's approach to national security isn't really all that different from Mitt Romney's. By 2017 I imagine all this will seem pretty obvious.