Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Ugly Winner

Is the Obama Administration truly a failed presidency? Rolling Stone doesn't seem to think so. Their article interviews, not pundits, but historians who point out that so far, Obama's is the most successful progressive presidency since LBJ. They also point out that Obama has accomplished more and shaped the agenda in his first 2 years than even Reagan did in his first two years. Unlike both LBJ and Reagan, Obama faced much more powerful opposition to his legislative agenda. While the jury is still out on whether or not the original stimulus package was big enough, without it, economists say that we could have been facing not intractable 9.6% unemployment, but intractable 16.5% unemployment with wage and price deflation.
They also point out that while the Healthcare Bill is less than the Medicare for Everybody that dirty hippies like me would like, it remains the biggest reform in the system since Medicare in 1965, and may prove to be even bigger in the long run. For the first time, insurance providers are brought under regulation with some real consumer protections in place. By the end of the decade, 95% of Americans will have health insurance under this plan.

I think what makes things hard for us Progressives is that we are so used to beautiful losers, people who cling to their agendas, die nobly on the political battlefield, and ultimately accomplish nothing. Obama is an ugly winner along the lines of LBJ (and lest we forget FDR), willing to do the ugly horse-trading necessary to get anything done in a democracy. As I've always argued, democracy is ugly. It's not saviors riding in on white horses. It's quarrelsome committees and shaky coalitions of competing claims and interests looking for a way to go forward. Meeting minutes get lost, phone calls get missed, feelings get hurt, and sometimes boneheaded mistakes are made and corruption flourishes, but what really matters is that the opposing sides feel no desperate compulsion to shoot each other. Rival political factions and ideologies can compete for power without killing each other. Not a small thing.


rick allen said...

I think that your reading of things is spot on.

As one who habitually looks for silver linings as dark clouds approach, I can only hope that, if the Republicans take the House, the spectacle of irresponsible obstruction, and exponentially greater gridlock, will allow the President to highlight the mostly-unsung progress of these last two years. And the presidential veto will insure that nothing gained will be repealed, even if both houses turn.

In other words, the Republicans, having gained some foothold in governing, will then have something they can be held responsible for. And it is indeed a strange paradox that, consistently, the most democratic of our institutions, the House of Representatives, is held in least esteeem by the people at large.

Counterlight said...

rick, I hope you're right.

Mary Clara said...

Doug, thanks for this. I agree. A lot has been accomplished by this administration. Do I wish Obama (as well as the Congress) would do more of this, less of that on any given day? Often, yes. But I measure his performance in terms of the scale and nature of the problems he faces. It seems that many, perhaps the majority of the electorate, expect him to magically solve their particular problems without any major systemic reform or any sacrifice on their part. The biggest "sacrifice" would be to give up our idealized view of our nation. Our country is deeply messed up and most Americans do not want to face that fact. It would be too painful to accept that in many ways ours is not "The Greatest Country In The World (ever)" -- that our medical and educational systems are failing, our infrastructure is crumbling, our current wars were big, obvious, catastrophically destructive and murderous mistakes, and our economic and political systems are more and more set up to fail the average citizen (not to mention the poor) at the expense of the rich. So instead of facing the pathologies in which we are mired and the need for real change, we blame the President who is working for change. Ever since Jimmy Carter was crucified for commenting on the national 'malaise' no President has had the gumption to suggest such a thing, but we citizens need to grow up and face it.

JCF said...

Over at gay site Joe.My.God., it was very distressing to read the near-universal condemnation (and vituperation) against Obama for . . . coming to a strategizing meeting to *repeal* DADT after the election.

Are we terrible friends, or what? :-/

Counterlight said...

Yes, we really can be terrible friends sometimes.

I have a couple of friends who posted on Facebook about the need for gays and lesbians to get out and vote. They got a tidal wave of abuse for their troubles. Lots of LGBTs say they are staying home on Election Day.
As far as I'm concerned, that's cutting your own throat to make a point.

JCF said...

I think this (from a Family-member in the Administration) was a well-written message. Natch, the commenters at Joe.My.God {Must.Not.Call.Them.Bitchy.Queens!} disagree. }-p

Counterlight said...

Wow! REALLY bitchy queens! We're at our worst when we decide to burn our own houses down just to make a point.

Yes, the Dems regularly take us for granted, but despite the glacial pace of DADT repeal, this remains the most gay friendly presidency ever. Hospital visitation rights is a very big deal, and I can remember last year when it was implemented (unlike a certain group of bitchy queens with amnesia).