A Dark, Dark Day for American Conservatism
The 2008 presidential election — just four years ago, but it seems so much longer than that — was a milestone for American liberalism. Barack Obama not only became the first black president in U.S. history — the living embodiment of the race-blind ideal that had inspired liberals since the Civil Rights era — he also proved to be a muscular leftist mover on dozens of important issues.
He ended don’t-ask-don’t-tell, endorsed gay marriage, set America down the road to universal health care, imposed a decisively Kenynesian response on the worst American recession since the 1930s, reversed George W. Bush’s torture policies, championed green energy, and got U.S. troops out of Iraq. And he topped it off by staring down the Super PAC-fuelled, FOX News-supported GOP juggernaut of 2012 — and won, bad economy and all.
Not all of his projects worked out (e.g., Solyndra). And many of his policies — such as his refusal to close Guantanamo, end the drone war, or prosecute Wall Street bankers — disappointed his young, urban, left-wing base. But there is little doubt but that his first term was, on the main, a triumph for the moderate American left.
His second term will be very different. With the economy picking up momentum, and the wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan over or winding down, America is no longer in crisis mode. While Obama will get credit for the relative prosperity of coming years, the agenda in Congress will be dominated by the unglamorous and unpopular task of reducing the deficit through trimming the welfare state and reforming the tax code. Even assuming Republican and Democratic lawmakers can do business on these issues, it’ll be give and take, not hope and change. Obama’s glory days are behind him.