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The First Term



On the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, an exuberant Vice President Biden famously pronounced the reform a “big something deal” — except that he didn’t use the word “something.” And he was right.

In fact, I’d suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal. He hasn’t delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they’ll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction.

Consider, in particular, three areas: health care, inequality and financial reform.

We’ve been through this before, but among presidents of the last century only FDR and LBJ have greater records of progressive achievement. There are a couple things one could add to this list — repealing DADT and committing the Democratic coalition to marriage equality, and a stimulus bill that was more far-reaching (and a harder lift) that it’s often given credit for.

As with LBJ and FDR, of course, there are also bad things and disappointments from Obama’s first term. His civil liberties record, of course, and granting that it’s the worst civil liberties record for an American president except for most of the others, it should have been better. He needed to use appropriated money to address the housing crisis more forcefully. One can’t say that the escalation in Afghanistan is a disappointment in that he said he would do it, but (to put it mildly) it’s not clear what it’s accomplishing that could remotely be worth the costs in lives and resources.

Progressives should want more, but we will normally get much less.

…to be fair and balanced, I should note that St. Ralph Nader believes that Obama has not done enough to address the crucial problem of our age, violent video games.

…Noah with more on Obama and inequality.

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