In essence, this means a president who not only wins elections (as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did), but one who ideologically shifts the nation in his direction. …
Whether or not he ultimately wins the argument ultimately depend on a several factors discussed below.
– The economy. Obama survived reelection in 2012 not because the economy was great, but because it was relatively better then the one he inherited. Despite their concerns, enough Americans bought his argument that the economy was slowly but surely improving and that more time was needed. However, if what they end up with is another four years of a middling recovery — let alone another dip — big government policies are going to be associated in the public mind with economic stagnation, which will make it harder for Obama to win the broader argument. If there’s a boom in the next few years, then Obama will obviously be in a stronger position to make his case for a more muscular federal government, just as Reagan’s ideological arguments were helped by the economic boom of the 1980s.
– Obamacare. In a sense, if Obama does nothing for the next four years besides implement his signature legislative achievement, his second term could be seen as a rousing success for liberals, because it cemented in place one of the biggest expansions of the welfare state ever. But it’ll also be important to see how implementation goes. If critics are right and we’ll see some combination of bureaucratic chaos, long lines, higher costs, and soaring premiums, it’ll make things a lot harder for Obama. But if the law’s proponents are right and it delivers benefits to millions without disrupting the health care experiences of those who are already happy with the care they have, then Obama will be emboldened.