The next two years

That would have to await victory in 2012. Every president gets two bites at the apple: the first 18 months when he is riding the good-will honeymoon, and a second shot in the first 18 months of a second term before lame-duckness sets in.

Over the next two years, the real action will be not in Congress but in the bowels of the federal bureaucracy. Democrats will advance their agenda on Obamacare, financial reform and energy by means of administrative regulation, such as carbon-emission limits imposed unilaterally by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But major congressional legislation to complete Obama’s social-democratic agenda? Not a chance. That’s why McConnell has it right. The direction of the country will be determined in November 2012 when either Obama gets a mandate to finish building his “New Foundation” or the Republicans elect one of their own to repeal it, or what (by then) remains repealable.