Monday, February 18, 2013
Is Barack Obama a Transformational President?
The central conservative truth is that is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), American Democrat Politician
It’s President’s Day. This day the questions are: Will President Obama go down in history as a Transformational President? And if he does, is that good or bad?
Barack Obama aspires to be a transformational President, as Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan were. He has said so repeatedly.
He seeks to transform America from a conservative to a progressive society. He seeks to give all a “fair shot” by taxing “the rich” and raising the middle class and the poor. He seeks to change a conservative culture into a liberal culture from a predominately older white male culture into a younger, more color-blind and gender neutral culture.
From his decisive win, in the Presidential election, one could conclude he has succeeded in his quest. President Obama has united minorities – Hispanics, Orientals, blacks, browns, gays, single women, and elites – into a winning coalition. He has media winds at his back. He has deployed and organized the digital media and forces on the ground. He has used his eloquence to dominate the bully pulpit. He has campaigned effectively and unilaterally, though some say at the cost of governing and compromising to seize the middle. More than anything else, Obama has leveraged his heroic life story, the rise of black to the Presidency, to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. His is, indeed, a compelling story.
But a transitional Presidency? He is not there yet. He has a huge problem.. It is the conservative U.S. culture, the so-called Center Right. That culture distrusts centralized government. It has a story of its own – the rise of American capitalism to become a dominant world power. It has outperformed more progressive nations, especially those in Europe, at every turn.
Furthermore, Obama has to convince skeptical Americans that their time-honored traditions of entrepreneurialism, bottom-up innovation, indie governorships and legilsaturesvidual freedoms, and meritocracy-rewards are outdated. Americans feel they “did build that” without government help and in spite of government regulations. Americans are reluctant to abandon the dance that brought them here.
President Obama has another problem as well. His policies have coincided with a “no growth” economy, so much so that some critics have dubbed him NOGO “No Growth Obama.” Twnty three million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, and millions more have given up hope of finding a job. Economic fortunes of the middle and lower classes are failing rather than rising. We have the worst economic recovery after a recession in 60 years.
Obama blames this miserable economic performance on his predecessor. How long can he play this blame game? Not for very long. Outside the Beltway, the conservative culture has never been stronger. The GOP controls 30 state governorships and legislatures. These states are resisting Medicaid expansions and health exchanges – the heart of Obamacare. And as Obamacare’s broken promises – lower costs, greater access, retention of your current doctor and health plan – become more obvious, people are asking, how much longer do we have to wait to reach the promised land.
Still, we could be at the precipice of Obama’s Presidential Transformation. Reaching the peak and crossing over to the promised land depends on the strength of the economic recovery and return of public confidence. It’s hard to see either happening soon.
Tweet: Whether Obama’s Presidency will be an historic transformation form a conservative to a progressive culture remains in doubt.