Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One Year On

There has been a spate of articles about Obama's first year as President. Let's leave aside the fact that his inauguration was January 20, so one-year assessments are premature; as Jonathan Alter pointed out in his piece on the subject in Newsweek, Election Night in 2008 began the Obama Era, and his team was on the move (and the Bushites on the move out) from that day.

Mostly, the articles are by people who somehow expected more, sooner (I haven't seen much by those of the right who were hoping for less, later). In particular, groups looking for environmental legislation, gay rights, and an end to military adventures in Asia have felt Obama has failed to deliver on their expectations, as have many who expected the economy to magically recover by now under his leadership.

My own expectation from the beginning was that many were going to be disappointed, as general expectations were raised to an unreasonable level, and the Washington swamp gas has yet to clear. I tried at least to moderate mine (see for example, my "Official Pre-Inauguration Post" and its expectations.)

I am not discouraged at all; I trust his judgment implicitly. I have rarely found his decisions to have been other than correct, or at least based on sound reasoning. I find that the improvement has been most distinct in the area of foreign policy, in which a President truly has a predominant influence. I also see his initial efforts in education to be extremely promising.

On health care, I will refrain from strong criticism; his greatest mistake has been to let others put forward their thinking too much rather than insisting on his own view, and that is merely showing too much respect for our messy legislative process. With regard to military policy, as with energy, immigration, and the economy, it's still too soon to draw judgments about his administration's footprint.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel's editorial in The Nation on the topic takes the right tone in the end. While we may not agree with all that has been done, or we may think that more should have been done, we must remain firmly in the camp of loyal supporters. Only from the inside can progressive forces guide the administration toward improving its policies, programs, and regulation. The overriding objective is Obama's re-election in 2012; only this will give the victory of 2008 a full measure of time to establish marked change in our nation. Obama is the horse we must ride; if he falls, the race (toward the future) is over, at least for the next decade or two.

It will be somewhat difficult to keep this in mind in 2010; the midterm elections are going to be ugly in many ways. Unemployment will surely be too high, which will work against the Democrats, so our reasonable expectation, especially in the House, should be to limit losses. Many of our party's representatives, especially many in tight races in conservative states, will have compromised themselves through their positions and votes on healthcare, and they will be undeservedly looking for our support. Prioritizing campaign funds for true Democrats who need assistance will be a difficult task for national organizations (and for discerning contributors), and they must not settle for marginally superior candidates when the preferences are based merely on party membership.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

After this post, I had a scary thought: what if Obama decides not to run in 2012? I admit it seems unlikely, but the counter-argument would be, now that he's seen what it's like to be President, maybe it's not his cup of tea.

The panic passes, though, because the Democrats have a couple or three potential candidates with much better national recognition and favorables than the best Republican--Hillary, of course, or Joe Biden, who despite the ridicule is fully competent to run a strong national campaign, or maybe someone like Jim Webb or Mark Warner of Virginia. The strongest Republican would be Romney or Huckabee, who won't pass muster with most independents and might not be too successful uniting the shrinking Republican loyalists, either.
The only way the Democrats can lose is if their program is comprehensively rejected (or they pick a terrible candidate). So, the point is to defend the Obama administration and build its record of success by 2012.