There are two kinds of liberals:
- Liberals like me who have a list of all the things the President has gotten done in three years.
- Liberals who have no such list. Or a list of all the things he hasn’t gotten done. Almost everything on it is there because the Republicans have ruled it out. You want a single-payer health care system or at least ‘the public option’? They say: No. You want to get America moving again with massive infrastructure modernization? They say: No. You want hedge fund managers to have to pay taxes at the same marginal tax rate as their secretaries? No. You want Elizabeth Warren running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? No. And on and on.
Here’s my list:
He appointed a magnificent Secretary of State, killed Osama Bin Laden, decimated the top ranks of Al-Qaeda, ended the war in Iraq, brought all those troops home as he said he would, set a timetable to end the war in Afghanistan, helped to inspire the Arab Spring, led the world in toppling Qaddafi – rather more cost-effectively than his predecessor toppled Saddam – restored America’s standing among the community of nations, was pictured on the cover of New York Magazine as “The First Jewish President” yet improved our standing with Muslims. He sextupled the number of stem cell lines available to researchers whose work may one day save your child’s life; averted depression, saved the auto industry, cut taxes for small businesses, cut taxes for the middle class; signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, lifted the Global Gag Rule on family planning, removed the co-pay for contraception, appointed two progressive women to the Supreme Court, extended health insurance to tens of millions (an estimated 45,000 of whom were dying each year for lack of it) paid for with a surtax on high-income individuals. He doubled the CAFE standard, kick-started alternative energy technology, promulgated the first mercury/arsenic air pollution regulations; launched an educational ‘race to the top,’ ended the college-loan giveaway to banks; advanced LGBT equality (I have a sub-list of 71 items on that front), has us poised to cut the military budget, launched the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . . . all this, and more, in the face of the most truculent opposition in living memory that kept us from accomplishing even more with less compromise.
Is it enough? Nope. But that’s why we need keep the ball moving forward. If we fail to, it will roll back.
And yet – just as we did with Nader in 2000 – a lot of us liberals are doubting our own guy and psyching ourselves out. Needless to say, this plays directly into the hands of people whose views we most dislike.
As it turns out, this is not a new story. In this must read piece, Jonathan Chait puts liberal disappointment with Obama into important historical perspective. We were down on Clinton, down on Carter, down on Johnson, down on Kennedy, down on Truman . . . and you know what? That was not so bad when the alternatives were Eisenhower (now considered by the right to have been a socialist) and Nixon (now considered by the right to have been a liberal). But with things as polarized as they’ve become, the stakes have become huge. This is no time for self-flagellation; it’s a time for focus.