Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently dubbed Barack Obama the “comeback kid,” because of the President’s resurgence after the brutal midterm elections. In just the last few weeks, despite being handed historic losses in the House of Representatives, the President has helped usher in a great deal of important legislation, including one of his campaign pledges to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” With the leadership of the President, the lame duck session of Congress wasn’t lame at all.
In addition to ending DADT and passing the START Treaty (over the objections of his old nemesis Senator John McCain), the President was able to work with Republicans and moderate Democrats to pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts and extend unemployment insurance for millions of out of work Americans. While the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was none-too-pleased, this move to the political middle by President Obama, in my view, offers his best hope for re-election in 2012.
Finding opportunities for compromise with Republicans on more moderate “pro-business” policies will help put people back to work and could ultimately allow President Obama win another term in the White House. American companies need more confidence that burdensome legislation and overreaching government regulations will not negatively impact their ability to operate. The White House should be trying to stiffen the backbones of American businesses and urging them to use their large cash reserves to hire more workers and reinvest in our nation. You cannot on the one hand harshly regulate big business and with the other urge them to start hiring millions of out-of-work Americans. Fair or not, it doesn’t work that way.
In addition to working with centrist-Democrats and Republicans to identify pro-business legislation, the President can also use his administration to curtail heavy-handed regulations that make it harder for industry to prosper. In my last op-ed, I spoke of reigning in the Chemical Action Plans at EPA that seek to regulate chemicals that aren’t even known to be toxic. What else can the President do? He can, for example, oppose a bill that will require cosmetic makers to jump through rigorous hoops to prove to the FDA that their products, which are known to be safe, still do not harm consumers. Other possibilities include opposing harsh new regulations for antibacterial hand soaps (also known to be safe) and ensuring that for-profit colleges are reformed and improved, not eliminated all together. While none of these proposals will destroy our economy, combined, they do create a hostile operating environment for America’s innovators and job creators.
Another reason the President will be well served by moving to the political center is because in 2012 he is going to need to win states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio — all states where very conservative Republicans just won statewide. The only way he can get back these independent voters that he won in 2008 is to adopt more centrist positions and reduce unemployment. If he cannot, the President will be vulnerable to a Republican challenger who will appeal to these independent voters by campaigning on conservative policies to end the current employment slump. To keep the White House, we need a President who appeals to moderate voters — not just hope that Republicans nominate Sarah Palin.
The President’s press conference, just a few weeks ago, where he chastised both the far left and the far right for putting ideological purity over the need for compromise to achieve legislative progress, was a bold and welcome step by Mr. Obama. That willingness to compromise gave him the necessary political capital to move several Republicans and conservative Democrats to supporting passing the START Treaty and ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. So, while moderation and compromise aren’t perfect, they are better than never-ending stalemate. Even progressives must applaud the President’s recent efforts to keep this year’s lame duck session from being lame.