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Cornell Law Professors Comment on Re-election of President ObamaNovember 7, 2012

Robert HockettRobert C. Hockett, Professor of Law
Some commentators are already calling Tuesday's results a 'status quo' election. Yet whether it proves status quo or not rides much more decisively upon what the President, the Democrats, and indeed all of us do now than upon what we all did before Tuesday. The real question confronting us, then, is whether we shall enable the President and his party finally to become that bold, visionary, latterday New Deal White House and Caucus that so many of us hoped for in 2008. And only we - and they - can answer that question.

To elaborate briefly: Since winning election four years ago, the President and his Party have consistently taken primarily timid and tentative steps along each path we'd hoped they might stride with courageous conviction. Where we'd hoped for full-scale mortgage-loan principal-reduction and Main Street relief to reverse our calamitous housing-crash debt-deflation, they brought Wall Street assistance and HAMP. Where we'd hoped for comprehensive infrastructure and education renewal to resume full employment, reverse our longstanding decay, and lay the foundation for a healthily humming future economy, they brought patchwork repairs and diffuse tax cuts that beneficiaries were bound to direct more toward mortgage-debt paydowns than sustainable, employment-maintaining consumer expenditure. And where we'd hoped that the President and Congress might finally reverse the spectacularly ruinous Bush-era war spending and tax cuts for financial speculators that threatened to make of us another 17th-century Spain or banana republic, they caved and signed on to more years of the same. Indeed even in respect of health insurance reform, an admittedly signal if nevertheless over-compromised achievement, the President and his allies preemptively surrendered the best and the second best prospects - 'single payer' and the 'public option,' respectively - before the inevitable political tussle and bargaining process had so much as begun.
To be clear, none of this is to detract from the first Obama term's many impressive reforms and successes in averting unmitigated disaster. But the comparatively weak-kneed redemptions of bold campaign promises were disappointing when not disillusioning. For a time, they could charitably and not altogether implausibly be attributed to the cautious, deliberative sensibilities of a White House and Democratic Caucus determined to cause as little offense as possible in the lead-up to an inevitable re-election campaign that would require, after Citizens United, more and more fundraising to finance. But now that re-election of both the President and most Democrats is secured and the bad faith of Republicans beyond doubt, these quasi-innocent explanations will no longer do. And so we shall learn - and again, determine - at last whether the Democrats can really lean 'Forward' as the President's banners have proclaimed, or will continue at best to tread water.

The President's acceptance speech Tuesday night, happily, bodes well in respect of this question. Never since 2008 has he sounded so passionately committed to doing what needs to be done. Let us now hope and ensure, then, that after his and the nation's fresh 'near death experience' he will begin taking the fight to the retrograde rump factions themselves, reaching out regularly to the people who elected him - just as did Ronald Reagan from 1981 onwards. He should do this each time that they lie and abuse process to block what our populace now seeks in true supermajorities - real mortgage-debt write-downs, real education and infrastructure renewal, and real progressive taxation reform. Let him call the rump factions out constantly on their thralldom to destructive and self-serving interests, their crocodile deficit tears, their perversion of the filibuster, and their pathological cynicism and mendacity. Let him govern by executive order and recess appointment when need be to show he means business. Let him in all cases shoot first for the moon, stooping to compromise only when this promises real results, rather than ever-reemptively caving to ill-informed, ill-mannered, illiterate fringe elements who hail more from the Confederate States of America than from the United States of America. And let us ensure that he does all these things.

Let the President, his Caucus, and all of us act, in short, on the recognition that we are indeed the ones we've been waiting for. Let us all thereby bring the great change we can really believe in. And let us in this manner respond to that one real question which this week's election invites us to ask and requires us to answer.

Lynn StoutLynn Stout, Distinguished Professor of Corporate & Business Law
For those who care about financial policy and the devastating effects that the wholesale deregulation of the financial sector during the 1990s and early 2000s wrought on our financial markets and the real economy, Obama's reelection brings a sigh of relief but little joy. Obama is not as closely tied to Wall Street interests as Romney is. Yet, he still has to prove that he is willing to take the tough steps necessary to rein in Wall Street and police against fraud, speculation, and excessive risk taking, and so get our financial sector back to where it should be--a reliable source of long-term capital for real investment.

Stephen Yale-LoehrStephen W. Yale-Loehr, Adjunct Professor of Law
Immigration will be high on President Obama's agenda for his second term. But achieving comprehensive immigration reform will be difficult, given a divided Congress and other pressing issues like the fiscal cliff and a struggling economy. Instead, Congress is more likely to enact small immigration bills in 2013.

President Obama will be under pressure to do something on immigration in 2013. Pro-immigration advocates worked hard to re-elect the President, even if they couldn't vote themselves. They expect the President to push for immigration reform in return.   Accomplishing comprehensive immigration reform will be difficult, however. With Republicans still controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate, the path to comprehensive immigration reform is just as hard as ever. If you thought getting health care reform through Congress was tough, immigration reform will be even harder.

I predict that Congress will enact smaller immigration bills as a down-payment on comprehensive immigration reform. There is bi-partisan support for making it easier for foreign students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math to get green cards. They create jobs for U.S. workers, which we need right now. Similarly, Congress might finally enact the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in 2013. The DREAM Act has been pending for more than ten years, with bipartisan support. President Obama has administratively aided DREAM Act students by giving deferring their deportation for two years and giving them work permits. A majority of Americans support the DREAM Act. It is time for Congress to finally enact this bill.