On the eve of the election, I looked back to how I was thinking four years ago, shortly after Obama's election:
After eight—perhaps twelve—years of terrifying, out-of-control skidding it finally feels as though our collective feet have found purchase. We've finally stopped our plummet, or at least started to stop our decline, far closer to the edge of a deep abyss than any of us would like. Or so I hope.
Trudging back up is going to make the next four years (and probably many more) as difficult as anything known to the overwhelming majority of us. And have no more illusions. It won't be the Chinese, the Russians, the EU. We must be in the lead of the difficult rise as much as we were the leaders of the swift and easy fall.
In a very difficult (hopefully first) four years, Obama has done that and more. We avoided the real risk of a second Depression. He managed to push through a true (if flawed) universal health care law. Even in our wildest dreams, I suspect most of us wouldn't have expected as clean of an exit from Iraq, a winding down in Afghanistan—let alone the ending of the Libyan and Egyptian regimes.
(Chait's essay is worth a complete read)
Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.
It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.
The latter three decisions are all highly popular now, but all of them carried the risk of inflicting a mortal political wound, like Bill Clinton’s health-care failure and Jimmy Carter’s attempted raid into Iran. (George W. Bush, presented with a similar option, did not strike bin Laden.) In making these calls, Obama displayed judgment and nerve.
So does the War Nerd (of the Exiled, Exiled Online and now NSFW Corp)
When you look back at Obama’s wars, you get a pretty clear idea what went wrong over the last four years. It wasn’t the way Obama’s team handled the wars. Truth is, they did damn well at that, better than I ever thought they would....
Considering the full-spectrum tactical/political/strategic disaster he inherited in Iraq, it’s gone way, way, WAY better than it had any right to.
The Obama administration isn't as liberal as some of us would like because the country isn't as liberal as we'd like. Find Obama to centrist or right wing? Vote for Obama, then fight for a more liberal congress, more liberal governor, more liberal State Legislature. Convince your independent and conservative friends of your ideas.