I posted the following as a comment on a post by Fr. Ernesto. I thought I would go ahead and publish it here as well. It may make more sense if you also read the post, but I think most of the thoughts stand on their own.
I believe DecodeDC has a much better reality-based analysis, particularly comparing the results of statewide referendums with elections results. I also agree with their analysis that it’s extremely unlikely the GOP will actually get the voter message polling indicates, especially since, ironically considering the election results, GOP approval is even lower than that of the Democrats.
With that said, your comment about Obama going down as one of the 10 worst presidents strikes me as laughable from a historical perspective. History focuses on the major achievements and failures of an administration. So far, at least, Obama really hasn’t had any of the latter — certainly nothing like Nixon or some of the others in the bottom ten. And he has some major wins in the plus column. What do people think of first when FDR is mentioned? The New Deal, of course, of which social security is one of the enduring aspects. LBJ? The Great Society, with its linchpins of medicaid and medicare. And while it falls short of those two measures, the ACA is easily third on that list for the past century. At least, I can’t think of anything else comparable. And the ACA is here to stay. Witness the way Mcconnell had to prevaricate in Kentucky on the issue just to get reelected or the comments of Kasich in Ohio. Moreover, Obama knows it’s his signature achievement, so I expect him to defend it.
Outside that, though much less sexy, Obama did achieve moderate financial reform. Dodd-Frank certainly isn’t the return of Glass-Steagal, which is what we really need. But it does have some real teeth and is a significant improvement over where we were. The Treasury Department and other agencies do now have real power to act in a crisis, which was a major question and issue in 2008.
He’s been fairly typical of post-Vietnam presidents on foreign policy. He’s at least avoided embroiling us in a foreign ground war on questionable pretexts like his predecessor, so that’s a plus. That could change still, I suppose, but hopefully not.
I’m not a particular fan of Obama and really wish a different Democrat had been president these past six years. I don’t believe anyone would have been much more effective against the scorched earth tactics of the GOP, but someone more seasoned might have avoided some of the mistakes Obama made during the first two years when he actually had a Congress in which he could accomplish something. The comparison to Clinton in the 90s is really an apples to oranges one. The GOP he worked with largely knew it still had to govern and tended to set some of its rhetoric aside once elected. (That was true even of the firebrands like Gingrich.) It looks like many of the current crop actually believe the nonsense they spout and intend to actually try to implement it, which, as Kansas and Pennsylvania have demonstrated, is a disastrous course.
I would tend to rate Obama right now somewhere in the middle of our Presidents with one really big, game-changing achievement.
Given that the GOP is unlikely to hear the actual voter message and nothing in their underlying demographics changed in this election, I predict they’ll continue their current course. And 2016 looks likely to follow the course of the last two presidential election cycles. Hopefully Democrats will learn something, but I’m not particularly optimistic about that either. Everything has been reduced to winning the next election and pretty much anything else has fallen by the wayside. Not sure what it would take for things to change.
It doesn’t help that we’re mostly down to two or three wings of one party rather than two actual parties. Democrats have mostly become the Wall Street friendly moderate wing of the Republican Party (with a few exceptions like Al Franken here and there). That’s certainly where Obama lies on the political spectrum. I guess when the GOP purged all the moderates from their party, they had to go somewhere. The GOP now finds itself almost in a war between its far right conservative wing and radical right wing factions. That’s the reason Boehner has had such a hard time since 2010 and I don’t see things improving with this election. As they’ve repeatedly demonstrated over the past four years, to the radical right wing faction, ‘compromise’ means getting what you demand in full without giving up anything. That’s why the GOP leaders have continually been forced to renege on negotiations. Personally, I don’t think that’s been all bad, since I thought some of the compromises Obama and the Democrats appeared willing to make in 2011 and 2012 were phenomenally poor ones. We were saved by the radical right wing’s apparent inability to accept victory with a few token concessions. The problem with no meaningful, organized pull from the left is that the starting point for any ‘negotiation’ today is actually right of center. So today, moderate right-wing Republican policy victories like the ACA are decried as ‘liberal’ because they are somewhat to the left of the now almost entirely far right GOP. (For anyone wondering, the actual left wing position for health care reform has always been some form of Medicare for everyone.)
At this juncture, I think the odds are in favor of at least one more government shutdown next year and perhaps more. I don’t expect much else to happen and I expect the plight of the American people to worsen. And I think plight is a good term for the current state of things. Most Americans now believe the next generation won’t do better than their own. And unless things dramatically change, I tend to side with them.