Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Barack Obama’s Quietly Transformative Presidency

Does this line sound familiar?

widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout

Am I discussing any of the various pieces of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law President Obama?  Actually, I am not.  I am discussing a man considered a liberal hero and the president that many of President Obama’s critics on the left wish he would emulate:  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

When FDR created Social Security in 1935, the program offered meager benefits that were delayed for years, excluded domestic workers and other heavily black professions (a necessary compromise to win southern votes), and was widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout. Only in subsequent decades, as benefits were raised and expanded, did Social Security become the country’s most beloved government program.

Those words are written in “The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama,” an article by Paul Glastris in the most recent edition of Washington Monthly.  The article is a long read, but is well worth it, detailing some of President Obama’s most important actions and accomplishments, and their ability to transform our country in the long run.

Glastris lays out in complete detail what many of us already know – President Obama’s accomplishments are many and are lost to many people.  There are a panoply of reasons for this.  There is the economy, which is still struggling, particularly when it comes to employment.  There is the sheer volume.  There is the Republican noise machine dedicated to defeating President Obama at all costs, even if it involves destroying the country in the process.  There is the fact that many of these accomplishments have been done quietly because President Obama is more interested in governing than he is playing the game.

This paragraph sums up perfectly exactly what drives many criticisms of President Obama – both from the left and from the right – along with the significance of his achievements and that they are not just for the present day, but even more so for posterity:

In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks. But if you measure Obama against other presidents-arguably the more relevant yardstick-a couple of things come to light. Speaking again in terms of sheer tonnage, Obama has gotten more done than any president since LBJ. But the effects of some of those achievements have yet to be felt by most Americans, often by design. Here, too, Obama is in good historical company.

In three years, our president has gotten more done than every president in his lifetime, save one.  Like Lyndon Johnson and like Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt before him, some of President Obama’s accomplishments will be felt while he is in office.  However, the true benefit of them will be felt many years down the road, and in perpetuity – should the Republicans be thwarted in their attempts to gut them.

Many speak of how we need a transformational president at this moment; one who will break with recent history and reverse the conservative tide that has dominated our government these past 30 years.  Many argue that Barack Obama has not been this president.  However, I would say that the evidence shows President Obama is exactly that type of president.  It is simply that he is quietly transforming this country, the transforming being lost in the background noise of hopes, fears and everyday worries.  When we have the benefit of history we will assuredly look back differently upon his record.

I close by referring to a site I have referred to here many times to highlight President Obama’s many and varying accomplishments – What the fuck has Obama done so far? (PG version here) – and to Washington Monthly’s list of “Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments.”


  1. Mets102

    so, I’ll only be around to comment for about 2 hours at most this afternoon.  Shabbat Shalom and good weekend to everyone.

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