Second Term–Obama The Fighter

Much of Obama’s first term was characterized by attempting to end the divisive political atmosphere. He pursued a moderate course, frequently (to the frustration of many liberals) proposing conservative compromises even when he was the only one doing the bargaining.  Even his most significant achievement, The Affordable Care Act, was essentially the Republican counter-proposal to HillaryCare. All this turned out to be futile as the Republicans had decided at the start of his term to oppose anything proposed by Obama or other Democrats, moving to the far right even more rapidly than Obama moved to the middle.

Obama realized the futility of negotiating with terrorists by the end of his first term. He insists he will no longer negotiate over increasing the debt ceiling–a matter which should be so uncontroversial to rational conservatives that even Ronald Reagan never questioned increases on his watch. Obama’s political machine became dormant during the first term but CNN reports plans to keep it alive:

President Barack Obama’s campaign operation is about to be fired back up just a few months after helping him win a second term with a new mission to assist the president in promoting his top legislative goals and progressive issues.

Senior Obama campaign aides are currently working on the specifics of how to restructure Obama for America, but are considering several different options such as converting it to a 501c4 or perhaps a super PAC, a source familiar with the campaign said.

The new campaign organization will be headed by Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager who oversaw the president’s victory over Republican Mitt Romney in November. Messina, Stephanie Cutter, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and several other top Obama aides are working out the details.

“After the election, it was clear from the conversations with supporters that they wanted to continue the progress we made in the first four years and continue it together,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In addition to a national grassroots infrastructure, the campaign also maintains a massive email list that it can use to mobilize supporters and seek donations. The Obama campaign won’t discuss how large the email list is, but a source said that it is “much bigger than the 14 million email addresses” it had amassed after the 2008 campaign. The campaign also made a concerted effort to collect cell phone numbers and throughout the campaign frequently used text messaging to fundraise and organize volunteers.

Fortune points out how effective Obama can be in his new role of guerrilla warrior:

Barack Obama handily won the November election. He cleaned the GOP’s clock in last week’s fiscal-cliff deal, seizing control of a supposedly Republican-controlled House. Now congressional Republicans, with a co-joined L on their foreheads and still leaking public support, can look forward to being out-maneuvered in an unwelcome string of upcoming legislative brawls.

As President Obama approaches his second inaugural, one thing has become clear: The 2008 peacemaker politician has emerged as a skilled guerrilla warrior. If Bill Clinton’s tactical legacy was disarming his opponents by stealing their ideas — welfare reform, “personal responsibility,” cutting spending — Obama’s may be his skill at dividing to conquer his Republican foes.

Conservatives were once the reigning champs of honing in and exploiting an opponent’s weakness. Under this President, Lee Atwater’s Sun-Tzu quoting descendants have met their match…

In crafting a way forward, Republicans should study another Obama guerrilla tactic — this one from the 2012 campaign. The Obama campaign handed Republicans a pistol to aim at themselves in the form of its rule forcing Catholic organizations to offer birth control in their health plans. At the time, the rule seemed politically dumb: Why pick an election-year fight with the Catholic Church — and its powerful voting block?

In retrospect, the tactic was brilliant, slipping the words “birth control” into the Republican primary water table when none of the GOP candidates wanted to talk about it. Unlike abortion (Gallup shows a slim majority of Americans describe themselves as “pro-life”), birth control is a nearly universally-accepted fixture in American lives.

So what better way to paint the GOP as extremist than to suggest the party wants to take birth control away from women, especially independent single women who will help decide the next presidential election? And, with staunch social conservatives in the race, why not let the party self-implode? No fingerprints needed.

Right on script, leading GOP candidate Rick Santorum became the poster boy for the view that birth control is immoral and doesn’t need to be covered by insurance. His attempt to parse the personal from policy — insisting he didn’t plan to take birth control away from millions of women –failed miserably, tarring the GOP and adding to the party’s many self-inflicted wounds with voters in 2012.

The historical irony here: Modern conservatives have long used the imagery of guerrilla war in their pursuit of politics, from Reagan revolutionaries in the 1980s celebrating the movie “Patton” (“Wade into them! Spill their blood!”) to former Speaker Newt Gingrich asking potential candidates if they were ready to be Jedi knights against the Darth Vaders of liberalism. Here’s Ralph Reed on the surprise rise of the Christian right he helped lead: “I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag.”

Of course, the left have had their own guerilla strategists, especially the late community organizer Saul Alinsky, whose “rules for radicals” focuses largely on how to dissect and defeat political opponents. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have,” is one.  Another: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Saul Alinsky–whose name still makes conservative heads explode.

Update: Obama Repeats Plans To Fight Republicans on Cuts to Medicare and Social Security