When the Republicans won the November midterms thanks to scant turnout, pundits and provocateurs began to write obituaries for the Obama presidency.
A lot appears to have changed in the past four months or so. Barack Obama's approval ratings are rising, Obamacare is more alive and more vital to the lives of more Americans than ever, the economy is doing off-the-charts well compared to the condition in which he found it, and the beltway is beginning to realize that this is not a president that will go quietly into the night.
Despite the GOP's big midterm victory, it's President Obama who's seen his influence on the national conversation increase, and the Beltway is grudgingly admitting it. CNN observes that "Obama [is] redefining the lame duck presidency", Politico revels at how the President is "calling the shots" amidst GOP chaos in Washington, and the AP says Obama has the "upper hand" in the budget fight. Heck, even the horrendously right wing publication Newsmax is forced to admit Obama's dominance.
This passage from the CNN piece captures both the White House's confidence and the media's surprise.
Those predictions were, of course, the secretions of our venerable fourth estate.
Politico observes that an emboldened Republican majority in the House and newfound Republican majority in the Senate has failed to capture control of the agenda or even the conversation.
As Republicans have gained their majorities in Congress, their hotheads have gained influence. Hence, Speaker Boehner has had to turn to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi again and again to perform the simple task of keeping the government running, and Republican leaders in the Senate are finding themselves in the uneasy position of holding up the Attorney General nomination because their nuts want rape victims to have the rapists' children.
Let's be sure, a sitting President is always able to play a big part in the national agenda at least in certain respects. But President Obama's dominance comes at a unique moment in history: the Republican party has been radicalized for some time now, but that newly super radical party has never had the responsibility to govern before.
Even George W. Bush pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, signed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, signed McCain-Feingold, warned against anti-Muslim sentiments in the wake of 9/11 and at least paid lip service to the assault weapons ban. While today's Republican party is just as much a warmonger as Bush and Cheney, their social fringe base has forced them to oppose everything simply because President Obama supports it, celebrate the dismantling of part of the Voting Rights Act as well as of campaign finance reform, and expose themselves as a xenophobic party of the southern Christian straight white radical male.
Last year's election gave that new radical GOP the responsibility to govern. Now that they are in charge of the entire Congress, they can no longer get away with holding up legislation and saying 'no' to the president. They must present an alternative agenda, and they must go on the record about it by actually passing something.
But all they have been able to come up with so far is Keystone. With the economy doing well and the longest stretch of private sector job growth especially at the pace of late, the GOP's charges against Obama of being a "job killer" is no longer working, and the President vetoed their attempt to meddle in the administrative process with little to no backlash.
Their latest ploy to embarrass the administration, the amateur-hour Iran letter, has blown up in their faces.
In the mean time, President Obama has been reaping the benefits of his hard work finally beginning to pay off: the Affordable Care Act is now responsible for health insurance coverage of over 16 million Americans, the nation's largest banks have passed stress tests designed to determine if they can weather another economic storm in the order as bad or worse than the Great recession, vindicating the President on Wall Street reform, and as we previously talked about, the economy is strong again. President Obama is bringing together world powers to find a peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions, negotiating two progressive trade pacts - one transpacific and one transatlantic, and, you know, just being president.
And that is throwing Beltway into chaos. Being president while black is bad enough, but acting like it in your seventh year? Doing big things even though you can't run again? Sprinting to the finish instead of limping there head hung in shame to your radical political foes? And above all, overshadowing what the media should be able to concentrate on at the beginning of 2015, the presidential horse race to be decided at the end of 2016 (and thus ruining the media's hyperventilation sessions about Hillary and Jeb)?
We have said it for a very long time now. The Obama presidency will be judged by history as one of the most progressive, most transformative and most consequential in history. Barack Obama is far from done. He has gas in the tank yet, and he has history to make yet.