The day before the election, Republicans were warning that Barack Obama would bring too much change too soon, that he was a “socialist” who would “spread the wealth around”
and that his election would usher in “one-party rule.” Then, in the days after his sweeping victory, they tried to claim that his election represented no change at all. According to RNC chair Mike Duncan, Obama’s not even really a Democrat. Reckoning with his party’s dismal loss, Duncan claimed Obama won because he “ran the most successful moderate Republican presidential campaign since Dwight Eisenhower.”
Even so, op-ed pages and TV pundits have warned the incoming administration “not to overreach” and have declared America a fundamentally, unalterably “center-right nation.”
We beg to differ. On November 4 the electorate clearly and emphatically rejected the conservative economic ideology that has dominated this country for too long. Throughout this election season, it has been progressive ideas–on war and peace, energy independence, trade and healthcare–that have redefined politics. But if the postelection talk is any indicator, the electorate’s thirst for change will now face a powerful backlash from an establishment–represented within both parties–wedded to the status quo.
The first big test of whether Obama can resist the pull to cautious centrism will come in the first 100 days of his presidency. He has talked about the need to measure his administration’s accomplishments over the first 1,000 days, given the problems he has inherited from George W. Bush, which will take years to undo. But the first 100 days are still crucial in signaling to the American people and the world that the administration will take determined steps to repair this nation.
Obama faces major challenges: a cratering economy, a broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and growing inequality, and the stained reputation of the United States in the world. The millions who were mobilized and inspired by his campaign and candidacy must continue to drive a bold agenda to respond to these crises.
Here is a list of actions President Obama can take in the first 100 days. Some he can accomplish on day one, with the stroke of a pen; others will demand coalition building and an inside-outside strategy to push legislation through Congress.
Bush executive orders. As Obama said of his first 100 days when campaigning in Denver, “I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the Constitution.”