Friday, December 04, 2009

Will 2009 be the high-water mark of reform for the Obama administration?

If so, that would be one of biggest squandered opportunities in the history of the country.

Paul Krugman in Things to come 11/30/09 at his blog lays out what could be called the Clinton II scenario: an Obama administration that survives for eight years but achieves only incremental reforms. His summary version: "So what I see is years of terrible job markets, combined with political paralysis."

He does offer the possibility of an alternative:

What can the rest of us do? Progressives have to keep the pressure on. The time for trusting the administration to do what's necessary is past — all indications are that it won't, not on its own. But maybe, just maybe, the president can be brought to see the danger he's running by playing it safe. [my emphasis]
One factor that Krugman doesn't mention in his Clinton II scenario is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Iraq War still not resolved and an open-ended escalation in Afghanistan, he has two situations there that can go really bad. And escalating in Afghanistan virtually assures that things will go really badly there.


The timid Democrats, and the corporate-owned Blue Dogs, may be calculating that the Republican Party is racking up so many negatives with its current Tea Party antics that it will be effectively relegated to permanent minority-party status in the foreseeable future. That was what Dick Cheney and Karl Rove thought they would be able to do the Democratic Party, too, and that should be a cautionary example.

But the future won't look exactly like the past. What I see is a Cheneyized Republican Party with big issues they can exploit; a Democratic President in the White House who appears more interested in soothing the fears of Wall Street bankers than about what his voting base needs and demands; a public that has been ready for big reforms this year but is now losing confidence that the Democratic Party can provide them; and, a badly broken national press whose dysfunctions the Republican Party is far more able to exploit than the Democrats.

I can't predict what comes out of that picture. The most hopeful scenario would be a 2010 turnaround by the White House that leads to an aggressive push for a federal jobs program, comprehensive immigration reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. And decides it's time to disengage from Afghanistan.

That scenario doesn't look likely at this point. And if a solid health care reform isn't passed very soon, it becomes far less likely.

Otherwise, the Clinton II scenario becomes one of several. But "something's got to give" in this situation. Hope can be a powerful thing in politics. So can frustrated hope.

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