There’s a large number of citizens, interested parties, and pundits who have spoken on the success/failure of President Obama’s first term of office , usually with a clearly partisan divide. Republicans, and conservatives in general, tend to find great fault with anything, and everything, the President has done, on both factual and imaginary grounds, while liberals are divided amongst themselves on whether or not the President has been effective thus far.
What if, instead, an analysis was provided on President Obama’s clearly demonstrated liberal politics? What if this analysis was done with an eye toward political pragmatism, rather than the ultimate goals of the progressive wing of liberalism? What if the dislike-by-default ideology of Republicans and conservatives, often tainted with various forms of bigotry, was ignored altogether?
President Obama has two main problems, currently. First, there’s the stalwart opposition that the GOP has provided since he was inaugurated, which has quite effectively made even the most mundane procedures laborious and rancorous. Second, and perhaps more importantly, stand the idealistic notions that many American liberals have of not who President Obama is or what he ran on, but rather what he should be and what they believe his 2008 campaign was about.
Progressives and leftists of all types have been at the President’s heels from the beginning, pressing him to enact everything he’s ever promised and immediately reverse all that has been wrong with the country for the decade previous. This, in all honesty, is a naive and immature view of the American political system, especially since the system was specifically designed to be full of delay, debate, and disparity. With a few, rare, exceptions of a President with nationalistic passions behind them, typically at the beginning of military conflicts and their conclusions, if successful, Presidents simply don’t have as much influence on the legislative and judicial process that most citizens believe they do.
As a result, his agenda, an overwhelmingly liberal agenda, has taken time to implement, because of the longterm implementation strategy necessary in the current, extremely hostile, Congressional climate. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was not fast, by any means, but the process has resulted in an essentially ironclad repeal of the military’s discriminatory policy for its LGBT members. Correspondingly, President Obama’s approach to so-called gay marriage has been publicly described as “evolving,” which many believe is code for “be patient, it’s coming.”
Going through, item by item, President Obama has had great success as a liberal President. While he has shown himself not to be the bombastic, forceful President of liberal causes that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, the current President has enacted more liberal policies and pursued liberal ideals more than any President of, at a minimum, the last three decades. Has President Obama solved the problems of the United States, and the world, as he turns a country away from its ever-more-conservative path? No. Is he the latest incarnation of George H.W. Bush or his son? Ronald Reagan? Richard Nixon? A policy doppelgänger of John McCain? Obviously not.
Even with the issue of the federal debt, deficit, and debt ceiling, there are two central facts often forgotten about Barack Obama: he’s a highly intelligent individual known for his ability to play, and win, political games, and he’s a Democratic President who actually cares about the citizens of the United States. For all that liberals complain about the speed or agenda of this Administration, it must be remembered that the alternative was the ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, which would have been far worse. There could have been no better Democratic President for this moment.
President Obama’s aims are not truly in question. Although his methods are open for inquiry, he has a history of pulling last-minute victories out of apparent defeat, all while advancing the nation in a more pragmatically liberal direction.
”Addendum: This piece was written prior to the President’s July 25th speech on the debt, debt ceiling, and Congress. However, the outcry of progressives afterward only serves to prove the point that they are never sated with a Democratic President, no matter how capable or self-consistent they are.”
Kyle Brady is a young political scientist and writer interested in everything from domestic politics to foreign policy to political theory, currently living in San Jose, CA. He blogs at kyle-brady.com, is writing a book on the modern political scene in America, is on Twitter as @brady_kyle, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.