The Obama Presidency as the Pinnacle of Progressivism

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of libertarians tsk tsking  progressives for pinning their hopes on somebody like President Obama. For example, in a thread initiated by this article by Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, an anonymous libertarian stated that Obama was “no progressive at all.”

Yet this is untrue. If anything, the Obama administration represents the pinnacle of Progressivism: “big” government taking care of the forgotten man in all aspects of his life. Self-styled progressives feigning disgust in the current administration’s dirty laundry need not do so. Either they implicitly endorse the authoritarianism of the Obama administration and pretend not to in polite company, or they don’t fully understand the moral and intellectual foundations of the ideology they purport to adhere to.

2 thoughts on “The Obama Presidency as the Pinnacle of Progressivism

  1. Obama sounded like a credible progressive in 2008, at least to those who didn’t pay too much attention to the vapidity of his speeches. This was particularly true of his rhetoric on healthcare, which was dominated by promises to institute a competent technocratic solution to the morass that had become of the private health insurance market. He carefully stayed away from overtly socialistic language, but his clear insinuation was that he wanted competent government regulation to fill the gaping voids left by rent-seeking private insurers. Regardless of the propriety or feasibility of this stance or the paternalistic offensiveness of the back story of the progressive movement, increased government intervention in various sectors of the economy, especially healthcare, was exactly what many of his supporters expected from him.

    Of course, it isn’t what they got. Obamacare turned into a metastatic regulatory fiasco in the hands of Congressional lobbyists and staffers. The bizarre extremism of Obama’s Republican opposition was one of the worst things any serious supporter of any version of expanded socialized medicine could have hoped not to see. A lot of the tropes advanced by Tea Party activists and Republican politicians currying their favor were tangential to or completely detached from any empirical observation of health care. Most of them instead comprised a mishmash of ridiculous expressions of economic and racial bigotry, exactly the kind of rubbish one would expect in a right-wing chain e-mail from antagonistic relatives. It was easy for the Democrats, despite their being objectively corrupt, to present themselves as a reasonable center against this backdrop of crazy. Mitt Romney, an abject triangulator who has shown no discernible principles since leaving the Massachusetts governorship, was too beholden to the freaks who dominate Republican primaries to say, “Dammit, Mr. President, you and your Democratic colleagues really fucked up my insurance program!” (Or, to hew more closely to Romney’s beloved parlance, “Golly, Mr. President, you and your Democratic colleagues really goofed up my insurance program!”) Thousands of pages of handouts to rent-seeking health insurers that had long proven their disregard for the welfare of their own customers was certainly not what Obama’s leftist base expected of him and the Democratic Caucus. They shouldn’t have been so gullible, but at the same time Obama, Pelosi and company should not have misled them so cravenly.

    This illustrates my longstanding argument that, to Obama’s great benefit, his critics just can’t grasp what’s really wrong with him. One commonly hears all sorts of nuttery about Obama being a Manchurian Candidate, a non-native citizen, a secret Muslim, a socialist, a Mau-Mau, a black nationalist, etc. Much of this rhetoric is racist, and the lot of it is beyond the wildest caricatures that most Democratic operatives could dream up to smear their opposition. Rarely does one hear complaints that Obama is a center-right authoritarian machine kleptocrat. This, I believe, is exactly what he is. Why else would he take up with people like Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, and Mary Jo White? His choices of associates are damning. He’s pulling much the same craven shit that Bill Clinton pulled, and against a very similar backdrop of a cuckoo-bananas opposition, only more so (to wit, his raging against Snowden). The silver lining is probably that his act just isn’t as effective as Clinton’s was. The Big Dog looked like an adorable miscreant whimpering not to be smacked for peeing on the carpet again; Obama and everyone around him look merely like a bunch of pompous jerks having an angry communal fugue because they aren’t getting their way.

    • Andrew,

      All good points, but this one in particular struck me as odd:

      […] increased government intervention in various sectors of the economy, especially healthcare, was exactly what many of [Obama’s] supporters expected from him.

      Of course, it isn’t what they got. Obamacare turned into a metastatic regulatory fiasco in the hands of Congressional lobbyists and staffers.

      Emphasis mine. ObamaCare turned into a regulatory fiasco beholden to the many hands of Congress because there was no increase in government intervention?

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