“It was almost as if he were trying to channel Richard Nixon.” California-based journalist and activist Press (The Obama Hate Machine, 2012, etc.) examines the failed promise of the Obama White House and its abandoned progressive pledges.
Is Barack Obama a secret Republican? No, writes the author; it is just that in his ardent desire to achieve bipartisan compromise, Obama has willingly done such things as cut care for military retirees, cut welfare, cut Medicare, and cut Social Security. The claim that fiscal crises necessitated these reductions in social insurance and public service spending, Press and other progressives have long insisted, is simply untrue. Obama has shown little inclination to curb his tendency to strike self-defeating Faustian bargains, even if that tendency has also been coupled with “indifference toward Congress and the gritty business of politics.” This has come at the cost of many key planks in what was to have been a presidential legacy: instead of closing Guantánamo, the military prison system has grown; instead of encouraging transparency, the president has shifted war-making to the classified drone program of the CIA; instead of effecting comprehensive immigration reform, he “talked the talk, but never walked the walk.” Yet, Press notes, all is not lost: President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union and other public pronouncements of the second term, perhaps inspired by the successes of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressives, have taken a leftward tack, with such priorities as raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on the very wealthy, and normalizing relations with Cuba becoming realities. Even so, writes the author, Obama “doesn’t seem to regret not accomplishing more” and has been quicker to lay blame at the doors of Congress and Republicans than with himself. Of particular interest, looking to the future, are the author’s admonitions to the next president.
Failed progressivism? Perhaps, but surely political energy lost to inertia. A stinging but not unreasonable j’accuse.