Obama's 'Big Deal' is delivering for millions of Americans
Finally, there’s financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.
Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favoured Obama in 2008 – but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost).
All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal. But will its achievements last?
Obama overcame the biggest threat to his legacy simply by winning re-election. But George W Bush also won re-election, a victory widely heralded as signalling the coming of a permanent conservative majority. So will Obama’s moment of glory prove equally fleeting? I don’t think so.
For one thing, the Big Deal’s main policy initiatives are already law. This is a contrast with Bush, who didn’t try to privatise Social Security until his second term – and it turned out that a “khaki” election won by posing as the nation’s defender against terrorists didn’t give him a mandate to dismantle a highly popular programme.
And there’s another contrast: the Big Deal agenda is, in fact, fairly popular – and will become more so once Obamacare goes into effect and people see both its real benefits and the fact that it won’t send Grandma to the death panels.
Finally, progressives have the demographic and cultural wind at their backs. Right-wingers flourished for decades by exploiting racial and social divisions but that strategy has now turned against them as we become an increasingly diverse, socially liberal nation.
Now, none of what I’ve just said should be taken as grounds for progressive complacency. The plutocrats may have lost a round, but their wealth and the influence it gives them in a money-driven political system remain.
Meanwhile, the deficit scolds (largely financed by those same plutocrats) are still trying to bully Obama into slashing social programmes.
So the story is far from over. Still, maybe progressives – an ever-worried group – might want to take a brief break from anxiety and savour their real, if limited, victories. – (New York Times service)