This picture and the text list only a few accomplishments but given the hostility of almost half of Congress and the American people we Democrats, progressives, liberals what ever we label ourselves can be proud. One needs to click on the link above to get a more complete list.
Those of us who support the President and support his re-election need to ask ourselves why a vast majority of people don’t think he has done anything. Paul Glastris in Washington Monthly points out in his long article “The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama”.
In mid-January, pollsters for the Washington Post and ABC News asked a representative sampling of Americans the following question: “Obama has been president for about three years. Would you say he has accomplished a great deal during that time, a good amount, not very much, or little or nothing?”
When the poll’s results were released on January 18, even the most seasoned White House staffers, who know the president faces a tough battle for reelection, must have spit up their coffee: more than half the respondents—52 percent—said the president has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing.”
It is often said that there are no right or wrong answers in opinion polling, but in this case, there is an empirically right answer—one chosen by only 12 percent of the poll’s respondents. The answer is that Obama has accomplished “a great deal.”
Paul Glastris continues what the President has done and to try to explain why people don’t think he has done much.
In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks. But if you measure Obama against other presidents—arguably the more relevant yardstick—a couple of things come to light. Speaking again in terms of sheer tonnage, Obama has gotten more done than any president since LBJ. But the effects of some of those achievements have yet to be felt by most Americans, often by design. Here, too, Obama is in good historical company.
The greatest achievements of some of our most admired presidents were often unrecognized during their years in office, and in many cases could only be appreciated with the passing of time. When FDR created Social Security in 1935, the program offered meager benefits that were delayed for years, excluded domestic workers and other heavily black professions (a necessary compromise to win southern votes), and was widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout. Only in subsequent decades, as benefits were raised and expanded, did Social Security become the country’s most beloved government program. Roosevelt’s first proposal for a GI Bill for returning World War II veterans was also relatively stingy, and while its benefits grew as it moved through Congress, its aim remained focused on keeping returning veterans from flooding the labor market. Only later was it apparent that the program was fueling the growth of America’s first mass middle class. When Harry Truman took office at the dawn of the Cold War, he chose the policy of containment over a more aggressive “rollback” of communism, and then he built the institutions to carry it out. He left office with a 32 percent public approval rating. Only decades later would it become clear that he made the right choice.
President Obama’s weak point is definitely the economy and the stimulus. Was the stimulus too little to have a huge impact as Paul Krugman would argue or was it a total waste as many conservatives including those currently running for the Republican nomination would have us think? The facts are that the bailout of the banks and of the auto industry did work and in the end it didn’t cost the taxpayers since money was paid back with interest. Obama supporters need to hope that economic numbers continue to improve.
I had conversations recently with six presidential scholars. Three of them—Robert Dallek, Matthew Dallek, and Alan Lichtman—said that, based on what Obama has gotten done in his first term, he has a good shot at ranking in or just below the top ten presidents of history, but with the proviso that he almost certainly needs to get reelected to secure that position. The other three—Alan Brinkley, David Greenberg, and Allen Guelzo—took a more jaundiced view. While conceding that Obama has put a lot of points on the board in terms of legislation, they felt that the highly compromised nature of that legislation, among other things, reflects qualities of leadership—a lack of experience, acumen, and forcefulness—that will keep him from ranking with the great presidents, and will more likely place him somewhere in the middle of the pack, presuming he even gets reelected.
These last three scholars’ views mesh with the broader feeling among Obama’s critics, especially on the liberal side, that Obama is fatally overcautious. What’s notable about such critiques is that they essentially rest on arguments that are counterfactual—that a savvier, more experienced, more energetic president could have gotten more done. Certainly that’s plausible, if unprovable. But it is equally plausible, as Ezra Klein has argued, that what has constrained Obama is not a lack of boldness but a lack of political space. With Republicans unified in opposition and willing to abuse the filibuster such that to pass any legislation has required sixty Senate votes that Obama has seldom had, it is unrealistic to think he or anyone could have done a whole lot better.
I would argue that part of that lack of political space is due to race. I know that some who read this blog may feel that I harp on race too much, but it is the, so to speak, elephant in the room. Just look at todays Doonesbury.
Gladris ends with this
One of the most important tasks a president must master—and Obama hasn’t—is speaking up for his own record. This has been especially challenging for him because of the still-widespread economic suffering across the country and the too-soon-to-tell quality of his biggest accomplishments. And again, his even temperament hasn’t helped. He has seemed to want his achievements to speak for themselves. Who wouldn’t? But the presidency doesn’t work that way. A president has to remind the public every day of what he’s already done, why he’s done it, and how those achievements fit into a broader plan that will help them in the future.
With his State of the Union and some subsequent speeches, he has only begun this task. And while it’s very late in the day, the election is still eight months away. The irony is that, while Barack Obama has achieved a tremendous amount in his first term, the only way to secure that record of achievement in the eyes of history is to win a second. And to do that, he first has to convince the American voters that he in fact has a record of achievement.
So if the prospect of one of the Republican candidates becoming President frightens you, you need to help the President in spreading the word about what he has done in three years in the face of immense opposition.