With less than 24 hours before the 2012 U.S. Presidential elections will be decided most analysts agree that it is still too close to call
. Over the course of the campaign Americans have been inundated with grave predictions of what will occur if President Obama is in fact re-elected. These have ranged from moderate claims by the Romney campaign
that Obama’s re-election would result in four more years of slow recovery to more extreme claims that it would result in Obama banning all guns
, total economic collapse
, or even civil war
. Putting aside the partisan blinders for a moment, however, it becomes clear that beyond the claims made by the Romney campaign – which are up for debate – reality paints a far different picture.
So what would the next four years actually look like if President Obama is re-elected?
The first thing that must be considered is what Congress will look like during those four years. Current polls
lean toward a Democratic controlled Congress, however, only slightly and it is far from certain. With that in mind, and not have a crystal ball to consult, I will assume for the purposes of this article that the Congress will remain split with the Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Republicans holding a majority in the House. Of course, if this shifts either way it will result in President Obama having either an easier or harder time in achieving his goals over the next four years.
What will happen with the economy over the course of the next four years is undoubtedly the most important
issue for most Americans going into this election. It is also the issue most hotly disputed between the two campaigns. The Romney campaign hopes that they have convinced enough Americans that re-electing Obama is a death blow to the economy to ensure his election, however, the facts do not support this claim.
With the September Jobs Report
showing unemployment at 7.8% - the lowest rate in three years – and Gallup showing an even lower rate in October
the economy seems to be on the mend. It is true that the rate of recovery is still slow, however, it has been steady over the course of the last four years and if re-elected President Obama may have a better chance and increasing the rate of recovery. This is due to two things. First, with the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close more funds for what Obama has referred to as “nation-building right here at home”
Second, even if Republicans retain control of the House Obama may face a less obstructionist Congress. In 2010 conservative Republicans backed by the Tea Party won an overwhelming victory in the House. This was taken as a mandate by Republicans in both the House and Senate to actively work against the initiatives of the Obama White House; this position was best summed up by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s now infamous statement in 2010 that their “top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office.”
This, however, will not be the case if Obama is elected for another term.
For one thing the mandate will in all likelihood no longer exist. With Republican congressional approval ratings at 10% - the lowest in 38 years according to the Huffington Post
– and Republicans likely to lose several seats even if they retain control in the House the public’s displeasure with their refusal to work toward compromise over the last two years is clear. Add to that the fact that Obama will no longer be a political threat in 2016 and you have a formula for a Congress that is more willing to work with the President.
This will pave the way for compromise on the jobs bill, the extension of middle class tax cuts while eliminating tax cuts for the super wealthy, infrastructure funding, and a slew of other economic policies that have been blocked over the past two years. While Romney would like voters to believe that this is a recipe for disaster for the economy as pointed out above the facts state otherwise.
Beyond the economy, the fate of the Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – has been one of the top issues of this election cycle. Romney has stated several times that if elected he would make the repeal of Obamacare his first act –though many question if he could.
Obama on the other hand has steadfastly stood by the landmark legislation that he fought so hard for during his first term and there is no question that if he is re-elected it would remain the law of the land. This will mean that the following will go into effect during the next four years:
• 1/01/2013 – New funding to state Medicaid programs that choose to cover preventive services for patients at little or no cost.
• 1/01/2013 – Increasing Medicaid Payments for Primary Care Doctors
• 1/01/2013 – A national pilot program to encourage hospitals, doctors, and other providers to work together to improve the coordination and quality of patient care.
• 10/01/2013 – Additional Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
• 1/01/2014 – Health insurance exchanges established to help individuals find low cost health care insurance.
• 1/01/2014 – Health insurance mandate begins.
• 1/01/2014 – Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid.
• 1/01/2014 – Tax credits to help the middle class afford insurance will become available for those with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage.
• 1/01/2014 – Insurers will be prohibited from dropping or limiting coverage because an individual chooses to participate in a clinical trial.
• 1/01/2014 – Annual limits on insurance coverage eliminated
• 1/01/2014 – Prohibition against discrimination due to pre-existing conditions or gender.
• 1/01/2014 - Second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations.
• 1/01/2015 – A new provision will tie physician payments to the quality of care they provide.
It is up to each American to decide if they consider these things good or bad, however, for the millions of Americans who will gain access to health coverage for the first time the benefits are clear.
Over the last four years President Obama has been very clear on his views of foreign policy, and it is unlikely that this will change in a second term. We will continue to see a strong stance on Iran; a continued strong relationship with Israel; a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014; and a willingness to use the military – and especially Special Forces – against terrorist around the world.
The one area that is not as clear is how funding for the military will be affected. Republicans love to attack Obama on what they call his cuts to military spending; however, the truth is that Congress, not President Obama, has control over these cuts. As the Washington Post
points out Congress not only voted for the Budget Control Act which implemented these cuts but is the only body that has the power to stop them. It is unclear, then, exactly what will happen as it hinges less on who is elected as President and more on what Congress chooses to do.
The rights of women with regard to abortion, access to contraception, and equal pay have all been large issues during this election with polls
indicating that Obama has a strong lead amongst women. The reason women support President Obama is pretty clear, and is indicative of what to expect if he is re-elected. Throughout his first term and the campaign Obama has been steadfast in his support of women’s issues. From the start of his first term when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first act as President
to his fighting for access to contraception
earlier this year Obama has championed women’s issues; and there is every reason to believe that he will continue to do so if re-elected.
During the first part of his first term President Obama did not work on LGBT issues as aggressively as many in his party would have liked. Even so, given that he ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, stopped the enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, and recently came out in support of equal marriage rights, he has huge support amongst the LGBT community and if re-elected is likely to repay that support by continuing to fight for their rights. As reported by the Huffington Post
the LGBT vote could play a huge role in the re-election of Obama and they are well aware of it; if re-elected you can be sure that the LGBT community will continue to pressure Obama and Congress to finally take action to end marriage and workplace discrimination due to sexual preference or identity.
As I noted above the NRA and others have been stating that if re-elected Obama will finally come for Americans guns – they stated he would do it the first time as well and that obviously never occurred. The fact is, however, that although President Obama did indicate
that he may back a ban on assault rifles this is the closest he has come in four years to supporting any new gun control legislation. In fact, ABC News
reported in July that even after the tragic shootings in Aurora, CO the “White House signaled . . . that President Obama, who has seldom shown much appetite to fight with the powerful National Rifle Association, did not intend to make a push for stricter gun controls.”
If President Obama truly did have a secret agenda to enforce stricter gun control laws the aftermath of the shootings in Aurora was undoubtedly the time he would have unveiled it. In reality, this is nothing more than a scarecrow argument and another four years under Obama is likely to see the same amount of new gun control legislation as the last four – none.
With polls opening in less than an hour on the East coast we will soon know who will lead the United States for the next four years. While it is still unclear who that will be if Obama is victorious we are sure to see the above take place.