I’ve been kind of out of the loop with what’s been happening in the political world. I haven’t listened to any of Obama’s speeches, and I plan on reading the inaugural address rather than hearing it. (This is to escape the emotions of the moment, which will cloud my thoughts.) Thus, I will not embarrass myself by making predictions. That does not stop me from making wild speculations.
One obvious historical parallel is FDR. Obama has called this the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. FDR struck quickly, and his first hundred days in office are a good model. Moreover, Obama’s popularity is sky-high right now, and one would want to take advantage of that. It seems the most prudent strategy would be to move quickly and to move boldly. Stake a position to the “far” left. Let the Republicans whine. They lost the election, and this will only make them look petty in the public’s eyes. The bigger Obama paints the crisis, the worse the Republicans will look for holding things up.
At this point, the Republicans will have, from what I can see, five different choices. One: Full surrender to Obama. Two: Stake the far-right position and call Obama a socialist. Basic fear-mongering. Three: Attack Obama for not being centrist enough. Ask where the old Obama went who wasn’t into partisan politics. Four: Simply be obstructionist while schizophrenically attacking Obama as unpatriotic, socialist, not centrist, a big spender, etc. Five: Present their own plan for getting out of this mess.
Option three is the best for Obama. Give the Republicans a couple meaningless concessions. This will not only placate their egos but also enhance Obama’s bipartisan, conciliatory image. I see option four as the most likely. However, you can easily morph option four into option three, simply by repeating, “My opponents say this…” while not mentioning any of their other attacks. Their lack of a coherent message could allow Obama to define the battleground. Option one is also the same as option three, except without the bitter battle. You still give them meaningless concessions to look gracious, bipartisan, and presidential. Option two probably allows Obama to splinter the Republicans into a moderate wing and a radical wing. Proceed from there, isolating the radical wing.
Option five is the most dangerous to the Democrats, but also the most unlikely. Still, even with a reasonable plan, it is probably very easy to goad the Republican attack machine into action, which will make them look unreasonable and unstable.
If Obama is bold and puts the Republicans on their heels, I suspect he will be rather successful in ramming things through. I also expect symbolic concessions in the form of cutting certain things from the budget. If Obama proceeds slowly, well then, I don’t know what will happen.
This is just wild speculation, but I really expect the same dynamic as the race to hold up. Republicans hyperventilate and win the occasional news-cycle, while Obama wins the larger war.