Saturday, January 19, 2008

And Your Problem With Obama Is?

This video has made the rounds of some blogs, showing up on NLS, with the headline: "Progressive. Hah!"

I think it's unfair. First watch the video, then scroll down. I'll have more to say.

On historical points, Barack Obama was right. He was simply saying that Reagan created a real sea change in this country in a way that no other president had since FDR or JFK. Since Reagan, changes have been incremental. Nobody has really challenged the assumptions of the so-called Reagan Revolution.

Even now, we talk around the edges of reform but who discusses an alternative to supply side economics, free trade, deregulation, laissez faire capitalism? Is anybody even aware that there are alternatives such as Keynsian economics, mercantilism, and a system that would be a combination of capitalism but with some regulatory mechanism in place to prevent the worst health and safety abuses that now occur regularly in our mines, in our food supply and with our imported toys?

Reagan so changed the terms of the debate that we take far too much for granted as being off limit to challenge or change.

He did it because the times were right for his "morning in America" celebration of an entrepreneurial spirit. Back in the 1980s, for good or ill, his message matched what people, weary of stagflation and pessimism, were looking for and they responded. He connected with them.

Ironically, Bill Clinton had the ability to connect with people on a personal level but he did not make any fundamental change in the way Americans see their country or political system. He was a successful president who presided over eight years of prosperity. His foreign policy was sound. Despite being rocked by personal scandal, his government basically was staffed by competent people in his cabinet. He left a budget surplus and a strong military.

But he did not make the major progressive changes that would have undone the worst abuses of the Reagan Revolution such as insufficient regulation in the FDA, USDA, the banks, etc. And he championed NAFTA, which started us on the way to record trade deficits.

I do not think Hillary is the one to challenge that legacy or create real and fundamental change. But I think she would improve what we have now. I'm not sure that Obama would make the type of changes I'm looking for either, but he certainly shouldn't be vilified for simply stating an obvious historically accurate truth.

Ironically, the only person truly challenging the assumptions of the Reagan Revolution, the only one who I truly believe would change the course of our country and challenge the economic and political shibboleths by which we now live is John Edwards.

He is still right in his talk about two Americas with one falling behind while the other gorges on its excesses. I realize that his message has not resounded well or connected with voters. But in the stakes for who the true progressive is, he's the one.


Silence Dogood said...

AIAW, I want to congratulate you on being one of the few people around who has the consistency and moral fiber to point out that it's ridiculous both to criticize someone for saying something complimentary about LBJ's accomplishments and to criticize someone for praising Ronald Reagan. It seems like most everyone else is trapped in the hypocrisy of praising one candidate's historical referencing and damning the other's. You are not, and I therefore commend you for it.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Being a history major sometimes helps.

Thank you Dogwood Silence

VeryBlue said...

Reagan Democrats were(are) white southerners, especially men, opposed to black progress. Reagan courted them -- wink, wink -- through his southern startegy. He was a racist.

Obama is correct that Reagan rode the wave and got credit for the sea change. We had a huge debt when he left, and he played the right cords to enfrancise the religious right with their Jesus-wrote-the American-Constitution nonsense.

Without Johnson's push the initial civil rights movement would have been longer. Johnson deserves the credit for putting the bully pulpit behind finally institutionalizing our hallowed "all men are created equal" words, that still needs adjustment to make it true for us all.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Ooops, silence dogwood, I want to apologize for reversing your name. My fingers sometimes get dyslexia.

Silence Dogood said...

Haha, you actually missed it one more time. Silence Dogood was one of Benjamin Franklin's pseudonymns--but don't worry about it, it's hard for me to get offended by someone mistyping a pseudonymn that isn't even originally mine.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

You know, I should really have caught that, duh.

Can I plead the faltering memory of old age?