Liberals have been pretty successful

by Jamelle Bouie

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I need help understanding how OpenLeft’s Paul Rosenberg can credibly argue that Barack Obama has manically embraced “discredited conservative ideas” and “helped enormously in extended the hegemonic continuity of [the] Nixon-Reagan Eara. [Emphasis his]” More specifically, I need help understanding this strange impulse among liberals of Rosenberg’s ilk to understate or dismiss most of the work Congress and President Obama have done over the past sixteen months, especially when — as David Leonhardt noted in yesterday’s New York Times — it’s been a burst of activity that “rivals any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition.”

Indeed, it’s not hard to list the liberal accomplishments of the last year and a half: the stimulus bill kept a deep recession at bay and invested billions in infrastructure, education and scientific research. The Affordable Care Act will provide health insurance to 32 million Americans, protect the insurance of millions more, and eventually guarantee health insurance to every American regardless of employment status. At present, Congress is on the verge of passing a financial reform bill that goes a long way towards preventing a reoccurrence of the conditions that led to the industry’s collapse in 2008. ¬†And that’s to say nothing of small but important bills like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as well as the real revolution in the authority and power of the nation’s regulatory agencies.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been disappointments — Obama’s adoption of Bush-era detainee policy has been particularly galling — but on the whole, Obama’s presidency has been a success for the idea of liberal, activist government. Right now, liberals (again, of Rosenberg’s ilk) ought to spend less time lamenting Obama’s aversion to ideological orthodoxy and more time working to defend and improve progressive governance