Commentary: After Obama’s Victory, What Now?

The president’s decisive win offers an opportunity to create an enduring legacy.

Posted: 11/07/2012 08:07 AM EST

President Obama's victory Tuesday against Mitt Romney was a historic one on so many levels. The re-election of the nation’s first African-American president was accomplished in a spectacularly solid way with 303 electoral college votes. In the end, the most expensive and fiercely competitive campaign in American history turned out to be far more decisive than most anyone had predicted. 

Now that the season filled with the television tag line “and I approve this message” has ended, what precisely is the scenario that Obama faces? What’s the next chapter?

For one thing, the president is now unleashed, free to tackle his agenda with an eye toward his legacy, rather than his re-election prospects. That means simply that, if he moves with agility, he has an opportunity to take on a new swath of bold measures with success.

He can now burnish health care reform into the national landscape in a way that will ensure that his reform measures become bedrocks of how Americans deal with their medical issues. He is now likely to establish a strong new immigration reform package that respects the nation’s borders but also provides opportunity for people whose presence in the United States will only enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness. He can work with renewed zeal on a package to stimulate job creation.

The major challenge for the president, however, is to break the logjam that has made the United States Congress a laughingstock of partisan inflexibility. Against that backdrop, the president is now compelled to find ways to press his agenda through a House of Representatives that is led by some of the most partisan leadership in American history.

Nonetheless, there are hopeful signs for the president. The election served as a sign that the Tea Party’s influence is waning. With such darlings of the ultra-right as Michele Bachmann and Allen West having fought for their political lives, the message is that the harsh rhetoric of divisiveness is not so easily tolerated by the America people.

Another factor in the president’s favor is the fact that the country is in the midst of a powerful demographic shift. The demographic changes that became so apparent in the election of 2012 present a perilously clear warning sign to the Republican Party.

One need only look at the results in Virginia and Nevada, for example. And in the next generation, the blueness of the political map will expand to Arizona and even the South. As this country’s complexion becomes browner and blacker, Republican leaders will have to reinvent their positions — and their party — if they are to remain relevant.

For the president, that presents an opportunity to get major accomplishments through a still-fractured Congress. As Republicans begin to reboot with an eye toward their political prospects in 2016, they already understand that they must be seen as offering far more than obstructionism.

That presents a fresh opportunity for Obama. There is likely to be some short second-honeymoon period in Congress, particularly with some of the new progressive members. It would be wise for him to walk quickly and boldly through that narrowly opened door.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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