Salena Zito argues Obama sees his legacy as expanding the power of the Presidency–authority to order drones strikes, etc.. I suspect Obama is indeed pursuing a legacy of lasting power–he’d be foolish not to– but why shouldn’t it be power to get done what Obama wants to get done, as opposed to what his presidential successors want to get done? Does he want to empower Ted Cruz?
If you look at it this way, the first two pillars of Obama’s ongoing power legacy are:
1) Organizing for Action–if it works (and it might), it’s a permanent independent power base, a durable political machine outside the party’s structure. You think OFA is going to go away after Obama leaves office? I think it’s much more likely that Obama keeps on implicitly running it, ensuring his power lasts well beyond the constitutional limit of two terms. Think of how Japan’s Kakuei Tanaka continued to exercise influence long after he left office and you’ll have the basic idea;
2) Permanently Changing the Electorate: Immigration reform, if done Obama’s way, guarantees that Dem-leaning Latinos will increase even more rapidly as a share of the electorate than they’re increasing now. Voters in more states will be more receptive to OFA-style appeals–not just for this amnesty, but for the next amnesty–creating still more Democrats–and the amnesty after that, in addition to the rest of the Democratic agenda. From an Obaman point of view, it’s a virtuous circle of permanent power. (Amnesty, amnesty, spend, spend, elect, elect) …
Isn’t this a potentially powerful one-two punch of structural innovation that could give Obama his own power base lasting long after 2016? Sorry, Hillary.