The real choice is between achieving what's possible within the limits of politics as given, or changing that politics to extend those limits and thereby more assuredly achieve intended goals. The latter course is riskier but its consequences can be more enduring and its mandate more powerful, as both Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan demonstrated.
So far, Barack Obama has chosen the former course. Despite the remarkable capacities he displayed during the 2008 campaign to inspire and rally Americans behind him, as president he has for the most part opted for an inside game.
Perhaps he didn't want to risk what he could achieve through inside deals. Maybe by temperament or inclination he is more comfortable with compromise than conflict. It's possible he implicitly traded a more ambitious domestic agenda for Republican support on foreign policy. Or perhaps he has sensed the increasing polarization of the electorate and didn't want to further exacerbate it.
Any or all of these hypotheses may be true, but the undeniable consequence has been to erode the capacity of the president and his party to accomplish much more from here on. Still, it is far too early to write an epitaph for the Age of Obama. He may yet surprise. He is, as he reminds us, a most improbable president. MORE...
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Robert Reich: "The Origins of the Enthusiasm Gap"