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To Explain What Should Be Obvious


For reasons I can’t understand, every week or so some number of leftier-than-thou commenters who apparently have very romantic picture of American political history quote me as saying that Obama is the second-most progressive president since FDR as definitive proof that I’m s starry-eyed Obot or something. This is very strange.

Anyway, the reason I said that is that it’s obviously true. I mean, who’s the other candidate? Clinton, whose closest thing to a progressive achievement was a budget he himself described as Rockefeller Republican and who signed a lot of terrible legislation (some of which was crucial to the 2008 collapse?) Carter, the one Democratic president of the last century who was arguably to the right of the median vote in Congress? Kennedy, whose significant achievements consisted of tax cuts and Vietnam? Truman had a decent policy agenda but had notably little success passing it, and couldn’t get even a third of either house to stop Taft-Hartley bu upholding his veto, some of the most important bad legislation ever passed by Congress. And his Supreme Court choices were abysmal.

To reiterate, the point of this is not that Obama has been an incredibly progressive president or something. The points are that 1)when no presidents come close to meeting exceptions of what you think progressive presidents are supposed to achieve one might want to question your conception of presidential power, and 2)if you expect political change to come from the top down you’re going to be perennially disappointed (and that goes triple if you think it will come from presidents “educating the public” by using the Political Capital of the Bully Pulpit to Achieve a Game Changing Mandate on Steroids.)

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