This has been brewing in my mind so I thought I'd just write it out and see how it looks on "paper."
To be honest I think on this blog we all too often hear so much negativity about the President that sometimes I think Jonathan Chait is correct in his view that liberals just cannot be satisfied. To be honest, I don't really think Obama is liberal and Lawrence Lessig, a man I respect greatly, shared this opinion when he was a constitutional lawyer alongside Obama. Obama to me shares a lot of my own views: center left pragmatism, with an emphasis on pragmatism. From my perch, his strategy in terms of how to get legislation through the most difficult of circumstances, messaging, and understanding of power imbalances explains a lot of his presidency, and to me, a lot of what people deem as his "failures" are simply a statement of a reality that could never have been. Every time I read more, my thoughts in this regard are strengthened.
The Affordable Care Act comes first to mind, especially with this clause that health care providers need to take 80%-85% of their incoming dollars and make sure it actually goes to care as opposed to overhead, which could be sales/marketing/solid gold toilet paper. Insuring people with pre-existing conditions and expanding insurance to cover minors until age 26 under their parents plan was one thing, but this bomb really struck me. The health care bill was difficult to push through a Congress with blue dogs worried about the deficit. The analysis has been that the law instigated the far right, paving the way for the Koch Bros. to lay down their astroturf for the Tea Party buses to come rolling through. The misinformation machine of Faux News went into full spin mode with Glenn Beck the false prophet. If only Obama had messaged it correctly, to make it clear to the American people what they were getting out of the deal and how he would've solved the problem, everyone would've left the confines of their town halls and everything would have been better is the common wisdom. "How could the Hope and Change guy fail so hardcore at messaging?" We then hear about liberal dissatisfaction with a public option (rightfully so), and we have the picture of a president who punches hippies while drowning in the red tide of the Tea Party.
I don't buy that. Obama's strategy is a bit deeper. He does things long term. It's not perfect, don't misread me here, but I like it in that so far despite the resounding offensive against his idea, it's standing up. He needed blue dogs to get on board and he knew that the deficit was going to be the next hot topic of debate. The Tea Party had already been brewing. I have little evidence it took him completely by surprise, and despite the fact that we laughed at Sharon Engle and Christine O'Donnell, the right wing wave of 2010 wasn't too difficult to predict. Maybe not in its entirety, but Democrats were already heading for the hills. Better to get the law through at that time then to have it drowned out once the Tea Party Express started rolling through the streets. It's a highly corporatist bill, with many good criticisms, including the lack of sufficient existing health care infrastructure, constitutionality of the mandate, and questions on long term care and price controls. A single payer system would most likely be the best way, but from a pragmatists perspective, it has to first get made law, then be impervious to repeal (both in that it cannot be repealed, or that repealing it is worse than leaving it in), then tested for its constitutionality, then survive the "real life" test where it has to be implemented by real, living, breathing people.
The health care law mandates digitizing records and has started a new, burgeoning industry of Health Information Technology. Stimulus funds went to training people by giving them 6 month certificates and retooling existing professionals to make jobs that easily make at least $20/hr for people with minimal certification. So when it's implemented, no one will be able to say, "You didn't think this through effectively enough," or "Look at this mess! People's records are being lost or destroyed! You've forced a tidal wave on us and it's all your fault!" So, we cleared this hurdle.
Then there were the waivers. That was brilliant; one of my favorite Obama moments ever. The look on the Republican governor's faces when he essentially said: "If you can do better, then go ahead," were beyond priceless. Checkmate bitches. Obama loves to net his opponent in a web of hypocrisy, and the GOP is almost always too eager to oblige. If they do not develop public options, and many of those federal dollar-loving red states cannot or will not implement better-than-mandate options, due to the fact they loathe raising taxes, they'll easily take the exchange dollars and the grants while simultaneously declaring him a Kenyan Marxist with anti-colonial views. More fodder for local newspapers outlining what I love to call "stimulus hypocrisy." Plus, and this gets even better, people who CAN come up with public options will be free to do so and be given ample time to develop them to serve as models that "Hey, I know the public option smacked of spending blue dogs, but these states made it work, and will have visible results, so why don't you go ahead and copy them?" Governor Schweitzer, master of the Democrat-sounding-like-a-Republican strategy, was able to sell it to his constituents, instead of having Obama try to connect to voters who seemed to prefer their local leaders to him.
We're now seeing a mandate at efficiency in making sure that health care providers...provide health care instead of seeking profit in ways that is not their expressed purpose. This was the blow that was needed to kick start everything. Again, it's the economy stupid. Once this starts working then he can expand his support for it. Is there a lot of compartmentalization that will happen when people benefit from a government program, but not realize that it is affecting them? "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" guy is of course a consideration, but from Obama's perspective, this man is lost and not really worthy of calculation. The middle is impressed with results, and the spare people he needs to pick up as a rule hate partisanship and will go for the candidate that gives them the illusion they're logical, dispassionate, centrist, middle of the road people they fashion themselves to be.
Yes, we loathe the Bush tax cuts, and we hate that he cannot get his jobs bill. He could've nationalized the banks, flushed them of the scum, and made stimulus three times as much. We are suspicious of the duplicity of not going after the banksters as hard as he could when their fraud comes more and more to light with each passing day. He goes to dinners with $10,000 plates with people we think are elitist and the 1%. Libya concerns me as a resource based war, prepping Africa for further military adventures, but in many ways he handles each country calmly and coolly. We can't expect for NATO to lose hundreds of soldiers and stay with us in Afghanistan for 10 years and not expect to reciprocate when their interests are under attack. I don't really care if Ghadaffi or his mercenary band of rapists die, although I'm sure there were profiteers waiting in the wings and that perhaps our leaders sometimes work off of information that is fed or fabricated for the benefit of someone else. Nothing is perfect, but I think Obama works in a field where he moves the center of gravity and tries to outmaneuver his opponents pieces. His strategy was correct in Egypt, correct in Libya, and correct elsewhere even though much of what he does perpetuates Bush's wars and much of our foreign policy hypocrisy where we claim to want to spread democracy and save people in one country from their evil dictator while letting another dictator do the exact same thing elsewhere. However he moved the needle here, and started to pursue the strategy that other countries stop outsourcing their militaries to the U.S. government and instead take part in the governance of their own regions. As an aside, letting Bush-Maliki take effect was genius. There was no need to press the Iraqis for a new agreement when you can just leave and point to the fact the invasion was mostly hated by the people you invaded. Bitter medicine, but excellent use of the tools available to get a good end result.
He crafts his legislation to follow a set course, on a set time frame, and to read out his opponent's moves as best he can to get them to cannibalize themselves and run them off a cliff of their own making. We lament his deficit fight "centrism" and point to polls that say that even moderates wanted him to fight more, but at the same time, firing up the liberal and democratic base is not as hard as you might think, and moderates are fickle and oftentimes are partisan but just don't want to admit it.
I know there is a ton in this diary, and I will be flamed. So, flame me away. I don't know everything, but I watch the news and read articles, and I am processing the political world not through idealism, but with the mindset of "What is your goal and how is it that you're going to reach your goal?" I am not all that liberal, but I do want a lot of what OWS wants and what many on this site want. Campaign finance reform, banksters being held accountable for fraud, a fair taxation system, and end to endless foreign adventures or relegating them to simply special ops, as well as a pragmatic focus on preparing the U.S. to go toe to toe with China. These are all things we can prepare for, but without violence, entrenched powers rarely if ever go away, so either persuasion or intricate use of "self interest" are the ways to get the results you need.
In the famous, yet modified, words of FDR: "I welcome your hatred."
Peace and love :)