Some readers of this blog have a near-pathological hatred of Obama. Others have fallen out of love. Myself, I realize he’s a consummate politician, with all the failings that entails. But I still think of him as a net positive. And here’s a few reasons why:
And here’s actual change we can believe in:
It’s easy to lose sight of these developments, especially when we’re caught up in the day-to-day fights over various political disputes, but the federal government has changed in some pretty dramatic ways over the last year. When we talk about the differences between Obama/Biden and Bush/Cheney, we tend to think about economic, national security, legal, and social policy.But John Judis reminds us of regulatory policy, which on a day-to-day level, is just as important as the other policy areas.
[T]here is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for — but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices.
Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office. […]
Republican presidents didn’t just undermine scientific administration by making poor appointments; they also slashed or held down the regulatory agencies’ budgets, forcing them to cut personnel. This was a particular problem in the all-important area of enforcement: If regulatory agencies can’t conduct inspections and enforce rules, it doesn’t matter how tough those rules are…. Now Obama is reversing these trends.Judis added that Obama’s regulatory appointments “could not be more different” from those we’ve seen in recent years, and “the flow of expertise into the federal bureaucracy over the past year has been reminiscent of what took place at the start of the New Deal.”
There’s far more than just those few items, such as the few I meant to highlight awhile back and was too knee-deep in stupidity to get to: granting Temporary Protected Status to Haitians, providing the kind of leadership that inspires the DOJ to go after discrimination rather than engaging wholesale in it, giving a shout-out to the atheists… along with plenty else, large and small.
Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he often wrong? Of course. Does he play really fucking annoying political games? Definitely. And is he the great progressive president everybody was hoping for? No, and he never was.
But for all that, I consider him a net positive. Especially when I consider what the alternative would’ve been.