Elias Isquith is very agitated about one of the points in this post, which may be due to a lack of clarity on my part. To provide said clarity, I should emphasize that I am not saying that the precise outcome of the 2010 midterms was inevitable. I do think nothing Obama could have done could have prevented huge Democratic losses. But it’s also true that the 2010 midterms turned out even worse than the models would have predicted, and if you want to say this is mostly because of Obama I can’t prove you’re wrong. I am much more skeptical that anything Obama could have done could have gotten support in the Senate for a stimulus large enough to matter. But since the “pivot” to deficit reduction was both 1)indefensible on the merits and 2)predictably provided less than no political benefit there was no reason for him not to try. If you want to say that there’s no reason to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in assessing the counterfactual, I can’t argue with you.
He suggests that he also disagrees with the rest of the post, and I’m disappointed that he doesn’t elaborate. I’m not sure which argument he disagrees with — is there secret evidence that primary challenges can bring about progressive change that nobody else can see? Does he agree with Stoller that the crushing loss in the 1896 elections and the 36 years of a constitutional order in which federal regulation of child labor was considered unconstitutional it portended was in fact a huge win for progressives? I want to hear it!