Friday, July 16, 2010

Obama Makes History, Public Grouses

Kevin Drum points out that, with the passage of Financial Regulatory reform, Obama will have been the most successful Democratic presidents for decades*. Which he has mixed feelings on:
 Here's the good news: this record of progressive accomplishment officially makes Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. And here's the bad news: this shoddy collection of centrist, watered down, corporatist sellout legislation was all it took to make Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. Take your pick..... Still, if you're a liberal, this is the best you've had it for a very long time. Whether this is cause for cheer or cause for discouragement is, I suspect, less a reflection on Obama than it is on America writ large.
I think this is about right.   And I think Drum is right in blaming the American public for this situation.  Whether Obama could have done more on any his legislative victories is debatable, but the evidence that he has done so much is at least testament to the power of compromise.  What is undeniable is that he has basically faced complete opposition across the board from Republicans, and to some degree from conservative Democrats in his own party.  At the very least there were no easy votes among these groups.  To the extent that Obama made overtures to Republican bipartisanship, which was never genuinely reciprocated, the practical target was likely the persuasion of opposition in his own party.

It's always easy to blame the politicians.  But we must remember that we elect them, and they - for good or bad - generally do what we ask them to.  The current American reality is that voters are angry and confused, and apparently about as interested in progressive policy agenda as the members they have elected.  Our failure to solve our problems isn't Washington, it is us.  We can talk about campaign finance reform and structural changes, but current politicians must still work within that reality.

(*And this in the face of everything else going on.)

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