For what it’s worth, I’ve been considering what the next four years would look like if the president were re-elected. As that’s no longer an “if”, I can begin to spin this forward, at least as far as 2016 (I think). Granted, this will largely be driven by economic matters, but I will try to incorporate other issues where I think I can. We’ll take this year by year…
The matter at hand will be the “fiscal cliff” (sequestration plus the automatic tax increase to Clinton-era levels). The president will likely make public his request for a trillion-plus-dollar tax increase. Of course, last year, Speaker Boehner nearly agreed to $400 billion in higher taxes – until the president upped the ante to $800B. I’m guessing there will be a deal, one which front-loads the tax hikes and back-loads the spending reductions/entitlement reforms into the “out years” – long enough for them to be erased when the tax increases fail to bring in proper revenue and new deficit reduction plans must be made (see 2015).
The economy, however, does much of the deficit reduction this time. Capital that was on the sidelines waiting for the election results and/or the fiscal cliff resolution will be put into play. It won’t be nearly as much as would have come into the game if Romney had won, but he didn’t. The economy will grow faster in 2013 – though the tax hike will dampen that – and the deficit will approach the magic $1 trillion level (it might even fall below it).
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage nationwide by a 5-4 vote. Justice Kennedy will cite Amendment IX as the basis for his opinion (the other four justices – the Democrats’ appointees – may join him in that, but more likely will write a concurring opinion of their own). A different 5-4 majority (all Republican appointees) knocks down the contraceptive mandate.
Europe will continue to stumble; Iran will become a nuclear power, but one of the “reformers” will become “elected” president, which supposedly makes it all OK.
While New Jersey and Virginia have statewide races, the real interesting political situation will be in New York, where the gaggle of big-government Democrats running for Mayor already has movers and shakers in the city looking for someone – anyone – willing to build on the record of the Giuliani-Bloomberg era. As the rest of the country watches in bemusement, the one label that was so toxic in 2012 become the emblem of sanity in NYC for 2013 – Republican nominee. If Insert-Candidate-Here (R) actually wins, yours truly’s entire argument for getting rid of the GOP goes in the trash can. Meanwhile, Mark Warner squeaks out a win on his return trip to Richmond, and Chris Christie is narrowly re-elected.
This is the last of the RINO-hunter years. Boehner and the Republicans who agreed to the tax hike deal face some primary challenges, but with the 2013 capital injection still working its way through, growth looks good enough to spare many (but hardly all) of the endangered incumbents. The deficit slides downward – if it didn’t fall below $1 trillion last year, it certainly does now – but not as much as it did in 2013. Still, it’s enough for the president to avoid the six-year-itch, and the Democrats actually make gains in Congress (albeit not enough to flip the House).
Robertscare (previously known as Obamacare) begins in earnest – and already the left is disappointed. Obama uses the State of the Union address to call for “Phase II of Health Care Reform” – which is as politically popular as Phase I. The president will want to wait until the elections (to see if his party can win the House), but by Election Day, the economic recovery has run out of steam, greatly reducing the GOP’s incentive to make a deal.
Syria’s leadership will at long last put down the rebellion against it, stunning global observers. Iran’s support will be critical. The latter will also try to reach out to the Arab world to build a Grand Alliance against Israel. It will be “surprisingly” successful; it includes the new Karzai-Taliban coalition government in Afghanistan.
The Democrats will lose (maybe) one seat in the Senate, and gain at least a dozen in the House (but will still come up short there).
As the race for the presidency picks up steam, events will drive candidates away. As the new recession gathers force, our debt is downgraded again. The deficit approaches $1 trillion once more, and in the summer of this year, the president declares a fiscal emergency and goes to the International Monetary Fund for a loan. This being the IMF, it comes with the usual faux-sterity requirements (more tax increases, pension and salary cuts, maybe some entitlement reductions). The deal wipes out the spending cuts from the 2012-13 deal (because they were backloaded). The result is crippling, and highly embarrassing as the rest of the world’s poor is asked to help us make ends meet. Major defense reductions will also ensue, while Russia and Communist China set dear geopolitical prices for their support.
With most domestic policy (and many foreign policy) decisions now off-loaded to the IMF, a strange occurrence overcomes the presidential race for 2016 – numerous candidates choose not to run. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s decision to join her husband’s Clinton Global Initiative clears the field for…Vice President Joe Biden. As the IMF imposed “consolidation” drives the economy deeper into a slump, the number of Congressmen who decide to retire rather than face the voters hits three digits.
The Republican reluctance has its effect, too, as several leading lights choose not to be candidates. In the end, the party has to nominate someone. Senator Rand Paul makes a strong candidacy promising to “tear up” the IMF deal, but the party is spooked enough to avoid him in favor of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. Bryant chooses Marco Rubio as his running mate, while Biden goes out on a limb with Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.
In a bizarre campaign run like neither party wants to win (in part because they don’t), the Democrats expand their character assassination to nuclear levels, aimed at the entire state of Mississippi. Not even an al Qaeda attack on the American Embassies in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is enough to change the dynamic of the race – largely an argument over who is to blame for the IMF-burdened economy (Obama or Bush). In the end, Biden is elected with 49% of the vote and 303 electoral votes (losing only Florida from 2012).
Biden dutifully agrees to implement the IMF package…and things get really dicey from there, but also too fuzzy for me to predict…