The 2012 election is over, and President Obama is the decisive victor after winning most of the battleground states by narrow but clear margins. After a lengthy reelection battle, voters have given the President the go-ahead to continue leading the country for another four years. The fight, however, is not over for President Obama; the challenge of effectively governing the country for the rest of his time in office remains. A divided Congress still poses a challenge, and there is always the threat of troubles arising within the administration. Mr. Obama, there are several courses of action you ought to pursue if your last four years are to be a success.
1. Reorganize your economic team. Though your appointees to fiscal positions did not frequently come up as a campaign issue this time around, conservatives and liberals alike both criticize certain players in your Administration, namely Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, for what they perceive as over-friendliness to Wall Street and the financial sector. Now that your reelection is secured, it’s time to make some changes to your economic team and bring in some fresh voices. Polls show that the American people overwhelmingly rated economic issues as their top priorities, and your victory in this election means they trust you to revive a still-sluggish economy. But you will not be able to achieve this in a second term without a credible economic team. After all, your Council of Economic Advisors will help you craft the plan that you have to sell to the American people – and to Congress.
2. Recognize that progress depends on a functioning Congress. Voters gave Democrats a resounding victory in the Senate, but the House remains under Republican control, which means that Congress will be divided in much the same way that it was before the election. Thus the potential for a continuation of partisan gridlock is high. The importance of a functioning Congress is impossible to stress enough. Indeed, blame for the dysfunction in Washington rests on everyone. But as President, you will have to take on the role of the leader; you must craft – and advocate – solutions agreeable to both parties. And in order to win the cooperation of the legislature, you must also stay on good terms with them. This means that you must stay above the Washington blame game and refrain from pointing fingers at the other side when negotiations break down, because that won’t win you any friends in Congress. The key to a productive second term rests on your legislative relations.
3. Be aware of potential scandals. Second terms are famous for them. From Monica Lewinsky to Scooter Libby, every recent two-term President has had some sort of embarrassment. Keep an eye out for brewing scandals within your administration, as they could undermine your legitimacy in the eyes of Congress. One particular thing to watch out for is the State Department’s handling of the Benghazi affair, and the recent release of cables from Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in an act of terror at the American consulate there this past September. In the cables, which have received extensive scrutiny from the GOP, Stevens asked for additional security at the Benghazi consulate, citing concerns of terrorist plots. The security was apparently never provided. Look into this issue and come clean with the American people if there was a failing on the part of your administration. Should a scandal surrounding this affair break in the first couple months of your second term, it could considerably damage your efforts to win over Congress and the public.
4. Come up with a concrete economic plan. During the campaign, both you and your opponent offered goals for the next four years (more jobs, smaller deficit, etc.) but shed very little light on how you would accomplish these objectives. When the 113th Congress convenes in 2013, you should have a plan ready to present to them. This plan must combine Republican and Democratic proposals and find points of agreement if it is to have any chance of passing Congress.
5. Don’t worry too much about the 2014 midterms. Undoubtedly senior Democrats are already planning out a strategy to win the House and bolster their majority in the Senate, while Republicans reevaluate their priorities in hopes of making up for losses this time around. Worrying too much about the next election constantly creates problems, as politicians pursue courses of action to bolster their reelection campaigns and those of their peers. This sort of behavior was one of the main causes of the gridlock that strangled the previous Congress. In advance of the 2014 midterms, you must stay above the fray as any strong leader should. Concern yourself with people, not with politics. Perhaps some members of Congress will follow your example.