By Chris Lowe (June 29,2015)
This piece is dead wrong. Barack Obama is comparable to Grover Cleveland. We live in a time of narrow politics, and Obama has not had the juice to broaden them, nor the inclination.
He has been hampered by scurrilously racist obstructionism as part of that narrow politics, and by the rise of the Wreckers to dominance in the Republican Party, who have no interest in actual governance. He has not been able to overcome those features of our times.
The account here of the ACA is just ridiculous and overblown. The ACA does not do what this article claims. It is not a national health program. It is an extension of the fragmented private insurance market via unsustainable subsidies that fails to address most of dysfunctions of the pre-existing system or to control the cost crisis because private insurance is inherently incapable of doing that. Employment based insurance continues to erode and degrade. The best feature of the plan, expansion of Medicaid, was severely damaged by the Supreme Court and the national narrow politics.
Obama’s main consequential actions have been in breaking with Clinton’s ratification of Reaganism in the area LGBTQ civil rights; in changing his mind from his initial positions and helping to push forward needed change. That matters. But it in no way resembles FDR, LBJ, or even Reagan for that matter.
The next truly consequential president will be the one who mobilizes a response to the climate disruption crisis that matches the scale of the crisis. The politics of the Obama era will be remembered for failure on that score. Obama has been part of those politics and that failure.
The president who presides when social organizing leads to the breaking of the Reaganite political economy will also be consequential.
Arguably in a perverse way W. Bush is more consequential than Obama, in the sense of the opportunity costs of his wars, deepening Clinton’s institutionalization of the security state, and the resources lost to the crashed economy.
Within the constraints of the times that Obama has not been able to rise above, nor really sought to, following the counsel of David Axelrod et al., Obama somewhat reduced the scope of military spending without trying to change the overall posture of militarism that weakens the U.S. globally in the long run, has further deepened the security state like Clinton and Bush, and deliberately refused to use the crimes of the financial sector in crashing the economy to achieve any significant control over them or change in the structures redistributing income and wealth upward.
Obama has also failed to raise any sustained critical attention to the corruption of our politics, never mind tried to organize any any action about it.