Obama’s Long Term Impact

Peter Beinart, writing at The Daily Beast, points out that “Obama has exceeded in 18 months what Clinton and Carter achieved in a combined 12 years.” His article on Obama’s success concludes:

Unless a policy victory brings political benefits—rising poll numbers, better prospects for the next elections—it is not treated as a big win. Thus, the Tea Party movement is considered an ominous sign for Obama, evidence that the country is turning against him. But the reason that the Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin crowd is so angry is that Obama has expanded the federal government’s relationship with the private sector in fundamental ways. In political terms, the Tea Party movement may be a sign of Obama’s weakened position, but in policy terms, it is a testament to his success. As shrewd conservatives like David Frum recognize, the current mood of Republican optimism is wildly misplaced. When Republicans refused to compromise with Obama on health care, they gambled that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, push through reform with only Democratic support. Then, when he did, they insisted that he was destroying his chances of passing future legislation. Now he’s proved them wrong again. So what if Obama’s legislative success prompts a backlash that buys the GOP a few more seats this fall? As Frum has asked pointedly, was it a win for the Republicans because after Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare they picked up seats in the midterm elections of 1966?

The larger truth is this: Even as Republicans claim political momentum, the country is in the midst of a major shift leftward when it comes to the role of government. That shift is playing itself out from infrastructure to health care to finance and perhaps eventually to the environment. No one knows whether these shifts will revive the U.S. economy and lay the foundation for stable, broad-based growth, just as no one could predict the impact of the rightward turn in American policy in the early 1980s. Decades later, liberals and conservatives still disagree about whether Reagan’s reforms changed America for good or ill. What they don’t disagree about is the fact that they fundamentally changed America. Those changes made Reagan one of the most consequential presidents in American history. Eighteen months in, it’s a good bet that historians will say the same about Barack Obama.

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3 Comments

  1. 1
    Leslie Parsley says:

    I’ve been thinking for some time that Republicans have been misreading the current climate. Let ’em keep running people like Angle, Boehner and Paul – just makes it better for the Democrats.

  2. 2
    John D says:

    RT @TopsyRT: Obama's Long Term Impact #p2 http://bit.ly/a4DjL6

  3. 3
    Clint says:

    “the reason that the Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin crowd is so angry is that Obama has expanded the federal government’s relationship with the private sector in fundamental ways”
    While Obama pushes a vision of a more active federal government, the relationship between it and the private sector hasn’t been fundamentally changed – not by a long shot. Beinart forgets that Beck and Palin will be angry with Obama no matter how trivial his policy proposals are.

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