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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Despite Short-Sighted Low Approval Ratings, Obama’s Record Is Impresive

At The Washington Spectator Lou Dubose explains why “Ignoring Obama’s Record Rewards the Party of No“:

Caught between the unmet expectations of the left and the animosity of the extreme right, the president is defined by two narratives that work against a dispassionate appraisal of his record. In particular, a domestic record that will likely play a decisive role in the midterm elections.
Is Obama deserving of disapproval numbers that range between 50 and 55 percent?
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley has suggested a different criterion by which to evaluate the president.
Brinkley describes Obama as a new type of 21st-century Democratic chief executive: a curatorial president. Obama, he writes, is a “progressive firewall” standing between an energized right-wing Republican Party and the legacy of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society.

“The Curatorial President” or “The Firewall President,” neither moniker is very inspiring. Yet the terms illuminate an extremely important accomplishment — preventing the GOP’s wholesale rollback of the gains of the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement. It’s fortunate that we have a President who had the guts to pick up the fallen torch of Sen. Ted Kennedy, as a force against Republican excess. Dubose elaborates:

As long as he is president, Social Security will not be privatized (as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan); Medicaid will not be turned into a voucher program (per the Ryan budget that the House passed in 2008); the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio will not be defunded (a John Boehner initiative); and the EPA will not be abolished (as proposed by Senators Richard Burr, John McCain, Mike Enzi, John Thune and Roy Blunt).
The role squares with Obama’s character: a deliberative (perhaps excessively deliberative) chief executive deciding where to draw the line on domestic programs he considers essential to the lives of ordinary Americans.

In addition to his “firewall” leadership, let’s give Obama due credit for his pro-active accomplishments, which required some deft politicking, including the Affordable Care Act and saving the all-important auto industry, in stark contrast to the GOP’s laissez faire demolition derby alternative.
Dubose recounts the horrific statistical litany of Bush II’s 2008 meltdown, including the sudden evaporation of $16.4 trillion in personal wealth and 3.8 million private-sector jobs. All of which were soon followed by the Republicans explosion of vitriolic lies and all-out obstruction of even modest reforms that would benefit working Americans.
The Republican response to President Obama’s efforts to get America back into a semblance of economic health was described by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein as “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Dubose adds “No modern president has been confronted by an opposition party that is as nihilistic in its determination to thwart virtually every initiative proposed by the executive branch.”
Further, President Obama’s executive orders, which have enraged Speaker Boehner and other Republicans to initiate a lawsuit, include some eminently defensible measures:

• Providing legal status for more than half a million undocumented residents brought to the country as minors by their parents
• A minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for anyone working for federal contractors
• Blocking companies with a history of workplace violations from receiving federal contracts
• Adding sexual orientation and gender-identity provisions to existing federal workforce protections
• Allowing debtors paying off college loans to cap payments at 10 percent of their annual income
• EPA and Transportation Department rules that will increase fuel economy in cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Sigificant reforms, yes, but hardly deserving of the Republicans’ accusations and tantrums about socialism run amok. The President’s latest executive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, also overwhelmingly supported by the public, has Republicans even more apoplectic.
As Dubose sums up and concludes,

“…$787 billion in stimulus invested in roads, bridges, schools, police forces and public school faculties; health care reform that LBJ biographer Robert Caro describes as a major advance in the history of social justice; public investment in an auto industry to avert its collapse; the expansion of Medicaid to 10.5 million uninsured indigent Americans; ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy; and fulfilling a campaign promise to wind down two wars.
In a healthy political ecosystem, that is a record that candidates would be running on, rather than disowning.”

What President Obama has accomplished, despite the toxic environment created by the GOP and their refusal to negotiate in good faith is remarkable. He may not get the deserved lift in his approval ratings in time to help much in the midterm elections. But average American families ought to be glad he was there to stop the Republicans from shredding the reforms of the New Deal, destroying the economy and weakening health care services for millions more citizens.

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