There is a regrettable part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing President Obama reelected — just so I could enjoy watching the heads of Jennifer Rubin and Glenn Reynolds and Victor Davis Hanson and other right-wing drones explode.
Take this latest tripe of Rubin’s, and cue the diabolical laugh soundtrack:
President Obama, I have frequently argued, has been fabulous for the conservative movement. He spurred the creation of the tea party. He helped the GOP win the House majority in 2010 and make big gains in the Senate. His Obamacare has helped revive the Commerce Clause and given a boost to conservative jurisprudence. His refusal to support human rights has caused a bipartisan revulsion and reminded us that foreign policy must be girded by American values. He’s sent independents running into the GOP’s arms. He’s forced conservatives to think hard and express eloquently principles of religious liberty, limited government, free markets and Constitutional democracy.
It’s impressive, this mode of thinking that can so monomaniacally overstate the powers of one man and one office — that can so breezily dismiss exogenous factors, that is so utterly incapable of even entertaining notions that require an appreciation of nuance or subtlety.
Rubin’s blogging is like a daily comic strip, a window into the inner workings of the propagandistic mind — except it’s all too real.
There can be no accurate short-term narrative about the Obama presidency that does not take into account the state of the global economy as well as the successful efforts of a dogged opposition party. And much of the conservative soul-searching she describes, including the Tea Party backlash, would have happened anyway, in one form or another. These were institutional reactions to the Bush years as much as to Obama’s agenda.
However, there is a sense in which I think Rubin is onto something. What I mean is: There’s a possibility that Obama, if he indeed turns out to be a one-term president, will have been not so much catastrophic as consequence-free.
Let’s assume that the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act in full; there would go Obama’s signature domestic achievement. He achieved no significant fiscal reforms. He extended the Bush tax cuts. His two Supreme Court appointees did not alter the Court’s ideological balance. As for the rest of the federal bench, Obama’s influence has been limited to an almost unprecedented degree. According to the Congressional Research Service: “President Obama is the only one of the three most recent Presidents to have begun his fourth year in office with more circuit and district court judgeships vacant than when he took office.”
Obama has perhaps accelerated America’s exit from the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. His rhetoric sounds different than his predecessor’s. But on substance, he has done little to alter the foreign policy trajectory of the Bush administration.
In the big picture, we’re left with a stimulus whose impact on the economy, whatever it was, has washed out completely; the tepid Dodd-Frank reforms of Wall Street; and a public affirmation of same-sex marriage.
In the 1990s, George F. Will used to gibe that Bill Clinton was a mere caretaker of the Reagan revolution. He was the guy who walked across the snow and left no footprints.
That’s ultimately what Barack Obama may turn out to have been.
There’s a lesson in here for the hysterics on the “Take our country back!” right: You never lost your country. It’s been yours all along.