This first week of the year is devoted to posts on the big political picture.
The main reasons that I think President Obama will be re-elected is that:
a) he is the incumbent, so the sizable majority that voted for him last time will want to vote for him again;
b) the economy is improving; and
c) the Republicans will be unable to unite around an exciting and unifying candidate.
President Obama has been a very good president.
Conditions in the country and in the world are improving.
Obama is playing the long game of politics very well. When he was first elected, he knew he had about 18 months to pass the main pieces of his positive agenda. He did, most importantly by passing universal health care. He has also been relentlessly bi-partisan, working with any Republicans who were willing to help, compromising the way any competent politician must, and keeping his eye on the ball. He has had even greater successes in foreign policy. And he has waited until the turn into his re-election year to push back harder against the Republican leadership's intransigence.
The Republicans have played into Obama's hands. They have positioned themselves as against health care for millions, against saving the auto industry, against regulating the investment "banks" that nearly destroyed the world economy, against regulating the payday lenders that batten on the poor and working class, against supporting democratic movements in the Arab world, against reducing payroll taxes for people who live on their earnings, against raising taxes on the hugely rich. Most importantly, they have positioned themselves against compromising and working together in the way that government absolutely requires.
To take a signal example, I think universal health care will be a pillar of what most Americans appreciate about government, as they do Medicare and Social Security. Republicans also opposed Medicare and Social Security, but at least some of them voted for it. Not universal health care, though - the Republican leadership made sure their party was unanimously against it. And they call it "Obamacare." This short-sighted intransigence will come back to bite them for years to come.
The Republican Party is also suffering a three-way civil war among its establishment, social conservative, and libertarian wings. The Tea Party, in particular, is almost as much anti-Republican as it is anti-Democratic. I believe the Tea Party has shot its bolt and will be irrelevant after this election. But in the mean time, they will exacerbate the intransigence that is undermining the Republican Party as an actual instrument of government.