The votes are in and President Obama has a second term with a virtual
guarantee that he will again face a gridlocked Congress. So what is a president
Those suggesting Obama reach out to Republicans forget
President Clinton’s second term, when his impeachment became the top priority
of congressional Republicans.
Governor Romney and a good many pundits are calling for him to reach out to
the same Republican opponents who made a pact after his first term election to
do everything in their power to assure the failure of his presidency—and
persistently voted as a solid block to fulfill that promise.
Some suggest it may be different in President Obama’s second term because he
will not be running again. They forget President Clinton’s second term, when
his impeachment on the flimsiest of grounds became the top priority of
When Senator Obama won the election that put him in the White House, I wrote
address I hoped he might deliver as president outlining policies for a new
economy equal to the challenges of the 21st century. Since he did not choose to
deliver it during his first term, I was thinking I might dust it off and put
forth a similar proposal for his second term.
Reading it now, I realize that most of what I proposed requires
congressional action that will never happen so long as congress remains captive
to my-way-or-the-highway extremists. President Obama will have his hands full
simply getting a budget bill through congress that is adequate to keep the
country running and avoid a financial default. If he succeeds in this, it will
be a heroic accomplishment.
That said, there is critical need to move the nation forward to address
critical questions mostly or totally absent from the political debates of this
now-past election cycle—including climate change, extreme inequality, and the
corruption of our political and electoral processes. Realistically, the next
congress is not going to move us forward on any of these issues, no matter how
what President Obama does.
Any progress on these matters at the federal level will depend on using the
considerable powers of the administrative branch of government—and President
Obama should give high priority to doing so. That said, I do believe that most
Americans are fed up with the scorched-Earth politics of ideological extremists
with deep-pocket sponsors.
There is a need and opportunity for President Obama to reach out across
political lines to launch a national conversation that involves all Americans,
irrespective of political affiliation, interested in addressing the three
defining challenges of a 21st-century world:
- Balancing human consumption
with the generative capacity of Earth’s biosphere while;
- Providing every person with
the opportunity for a healthy, secure, and meaningful life; and
- Achieving true democracy in
which every person’s voice counts.
This conversation has the potential to force a realignment of both of America’s major political parties and might well
lead, over time, to a significant restructuring of America’s political institutions to
create effective space for a far greater range of voices.
A second-term President Obama can afford to take the lead in engaging such a
conversation specifically because he will never again be campaigning for
re-election. It could be his most significant legacy for America and for the world.
Dr. David Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org)
is the author of
for a New Economy, The
Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international
best seller When
Corporations Rule the World.
He was recognized as an Utne Reader
Visionary in 2011.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published by
YES! Magazine, and is licensed under Creative Commons.To repost, follow these steps.
Image by Austen Hufford,
licensed under Creative