President Obama’s To-Do List

Recently Ron Brownstein got an interesting quote from the White House.

One senior Obama adviser says the administration “To Do list” after 2012 included thinking “about how you lock in the Obama coalition for Democrats going forward. Because it’s not a 100 percent certainty that they come out for the next Democrat.” Part of the answer, the adviser said, was to pursue aggressive unilateral action on “a set of issues where we have an advantage … and believe are substantively the right thing to do” and dare Republicans to oppose him.

In one fell swoop that knocks out two narratives we’ve been hearing a lot about lately:

1. That Democrats should focus on winning back white working class voters instead of shoring up the Obama coalition.

2. That President Obama’s executive actions are simply a reaction to the Democratic losses in the 2014 midterms. As I pointed out before, they have all been in the works for at least 1-2 years.

During his recent interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, President Obama elaborated on that second point.

Keep in mind that all these issues are ones that we’ve been working on for some time…

But at the end of 2014, I could look back and say we are as well-positioned today as we have been in quite some time economically, that American leadership is more needed around the world than ever before — and that is liberating in the sense that a lot of the work that we’ve done is now beginning to bear fruit. And it gives me an opportunity then to start focusing on some of the other hard challenges that I didn’t always have the time or the capacity to get to earlier in my presidency.

After outlining some of those specific efforts of the past six years, the President went on to suggest one of the areas he will focus on during his remaining two years.

But what is true is that I’m in a position now where, with the economy relatively strong, with us having lowered the deficit, with us having strong growth and job growth, for the first time us starting to see wages ticking up, with inflation low, with energy production high — now I have the ability to focus on some long-term projects, including making sure that everybody is benefiting from this growth and not just some.

That should come as no surprise given that over, and over, and over again, President Obama has referred to this as “the defining issue of our time.” How much he will be able to do to address it given a Republican-controlled Congress is questionable. But as he said during his end-of-the-year press conference…”interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.