In recent weeks President Obama has absorbed a volley of hits from progressives who are disssatisfied with his caution on a wide array of policies, including Afghanistan, the public option and bail-outs, to list a few (as reported for example, in Ed Hornick’s CNN.com post, “Candidate vs. boss: Obama’s ship not so tight these days, some say“). But the progressive cause may be better-served by taking a step back and considering his accomplishments in a broader historical context. Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the New America Foundation. and a former New Republic editor, does just that in his latest Daily Beast post, “Liberals Lay off Obama.” As Beinart explains,
…Our do-nothing president did something that Democratic presidents have been trying to do for most of the last century: He celebrated a universal health care bill’s passage through Senate Committee. For good measure, the Dow topped 10,000 for the first time since last fall’s meltdown. Obama’s polling has even ticked up: According to Gallup, he’s more popular than he’s been since summer…Even this summer, when the press was announcing a dip in Obama’s fortunes, the health care bills were moving steadily through Congress, the stimulus was gradually slowing the nation’s economic descent, and Obama’s approval ratings never fell below 50 percent…Get ready for the “Obama comeback” stories, in which the same publications that recently declared that “he’s failing miserably” (Politico) and “suddenly looking unsure of himself” (The Economist) discover that he’s thriving again. But the boring truth is that he was pretty much thriving all along.
Beinart attributes Obama’s sagging image, despite his accomplishments, to the media’s penchant for exagerating trends in roller-coaster fashion to heighten a story’s drama. But he believes Obama will ultimately be judged “against a low bar” — the disaster created by his predecessor. Even if Dems get “clobbered” in the mid-terms, Beinart believes, Obama should be looking pretty solid by 2012, when the stimulus will be showing positive results. Beinart continues:
So liberals should stop complaining that Obama hasn’t done anything. Sure, he hadn’t yet done much to bring world peace, but the stimulus bill — which includes vast sums for college tuition, renewable energy and mass transit — is one of the most important pieces of progressive domestic legislation in decades. And if Obama twins that with health care reform, he’ll have done more to rebuild the American welfare state in one year than his two Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did in a combined twelve.
For drama-seeking journalists, Beinart concludes, “The dreary truth is that politically, Obama is both lucky and good, and he’s well on his way to a successful first term.” Beinart’s big-picture analysis sounds plausible enough, and if he is right, the grumbling Dems of today will likely become Obama’s champions of tomorrow.