Media Blog

Ezra Klein: President Obama Broke ‘American Politics Even Further’

Ezra Klein of Vox ’splains how President Obama created the current partisan/political divide by passing so much of his agenda:

Reid Cherlin nails the central irony of Barack Obama’s presidency in one sentence:

[T]hey have managed over six years to accomplish much of what Obama promised to do, even if accomplishing it helped speed the process of partisan breakdown.

The 2008 Democratic primary was, as Mark Schmitt wrote, a “theory of change” primary. The different candidates didn’t disagree all that much about what to do. They disagreed about how to get it done.

Hillary Clinton’s argument was that she best understood the conflictual nature of American politics: she had fought these battles before and so she was best positioned to win them in the future. Change would come through mastery of the old politics.

And. . .

Obama pushed more change through the political system than any serious observer expected: he passed health-care reform, as well as the largest stimulus and investment package in American history, and the Dodd-Frank financial reforms (which are working better than most realize). He brought the Iraq war to a close and he actually did find and kill Osama bin Laden. There’s much left on his to-do list, but even in places where he’s failed to pass his legislative remedies into law — like immigrant reform and cap-and-trade — he’s used or is using executive actions to make huge strides.

But he didn’t do all this by fixing American politics. He did all this by breaking American politics even further. Obama hasn’t healed the divisions between Democrats and Republicans. Rather, he’s one of the most polarizing presidents since the advent of polling. . .

Klein ends with this:

Obama has brought a lot of change to America. But he’s done it by accepting — and, in many cases, accelerating — the breakdown of American politics. Judged against the rhetoric of his campaign, his presidency has been both an extraordinary success and a complete failure.

The whole thing here.

The problem with Klein’s argument is he misses that the “successes” he cites are temporary and the issues will all be dumped on the next president. It’s a safe bet that Obamacare, whether it’s working or not, will change with the next president, either Democrat or Republican; Dodd-Frank hasn’t stopped banks and “too big to fail”; and Osama bin Laden is dead, but ISIS lives; we see increased instability, well, everywhere in the Middle East. 

Klein writes that the president is off to tackle climate change and immigration reform next, but the president has broken the system and only has executive actions left for both. And doing that will make it more likely that the Republicans take control of the Senate. 

 

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