Now on the home page, Nathan Pippenger on what President Obama faces in his second term:
Obama’s first four years were as consequential as any presidency since Lyndon Johnson’s, but without four more, they might largely have been erased.
Yet positive results may still be hard to come by in a second term. Until at least 2014, Obama will face a divided Congress: undisciplined allies in the Democratic-controlled Senate and unshakeable antagonism—if not contempt—in the Republican-controlled House. This has never been a recipe for functional governance.
The kind of gridlock I’ve described may give the dispiriting impression that the next two years will resemble the past two. Well, why shouldn’t they? It’s true that congressional Republicans have failed in their top priority (Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, candidly admitted in 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”), but the basic incentive structures favoring gridlock haven’t changed. Recent political science research suggests that the opposition parties face a win-lose, not a win-win, scenario when reaching a bipartisan compromise with the president. For Republicans, then, bipartisanship is not only bad policy; it’s bad politics. Unless voters start to punish the GOP for inaction, it has strong incentives to continue obstructionism with an eye toward 2014 and 2016. The president knows this, even though political etiquette compels him to claim, as he did in June, that after his reelection, “the fever may break.”
Read the whole thing here.