Eric Alterman has an article in The Nation that argues that it’s a lot harder to have a progressive presidency than one that is not.
But the truth, dear reader, is that it does not much matter who is right about what Barack Obama dreams of in his political imagination. Nor is it all that important whether Obama’s team either did or didn’t make major strategic errors in its first year of governance: in choosing to do healthcare before financial reform; in not holding out for a larger, more people-focused stimulus bill, in eschewing a carbon tax; or in failing to nationalize banks and break up those that are “too big to fail.” Face it, the system is rigged, and it’s rigged against us. Sure, presidents can pretty easily pass tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful corporations. They can start whatever wars they wish and wiretap whomever they want without warrants. They can order the torture of terrorist suspects, lie about it and see that their intelligence services destroy the evidence. But what they cannot do, even with supermajorities in both houses of Congress behind them, is pass the kind of transformative progressive legislation that Barack Obama promised in his 2008 presidential campaign.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the article, but in one sense, he’s right; it’s a lot easier to hand out candy and dessert like big tax cuts and corporate welfare, perform knee-jerk acts of vengeance and spy-thriller antics against our perceived enemies, and point the finger of blame at the powerless and blame them for all our troubles than it is to actually solve the problems that caused them in the first place. And it’s especially hard to change the system when we are plagued with a media and a political class of elected officials that have the short-term memory of a goldfish.