Christopher Hayes, DC Editor at The Nation, writes in the May 11 issue that he can’t peg Obama, can’t tell whether he’s Establishment or center-left (what he calls Down for the Cause). Sure, Obama’s agenda is mostly progressive, but then again he gave Summers the keys to the Treasury.
With all the talk of balance sheets these days, I’ve taken to tallying up each side of the “change” ledger: forces pushing toward reform on the left and those that maintain the status quo on the right. After 100 days, this is what I have.
On the right: three decades of accelerating inequality and oligopolistic rent-seeking that has produced a sophisticated set of entrenched interests whose sole mission is to expand the reign of the corporations and the wealthy people they represent; a constitutional system engineered to stymie change and moderate the influence of the rabble; a Senate whose rules and customs bestow maximum power on each sitting senator so that a lone reactionary like Tom Coburn can hold up funding for national parks for more than a year; a degraded (albeit slightly revived) culture of civic engagement; a class of Democratic operatives who seem to have no beliefs, principles or commitments, or who once had them but have been co-opted; a mammoth, ferocious national security bureaucracy willing and able to conduct what Bob Gates cheekily called “guerrilla warfare” to defend its turf; a president who seems to have little appetite for a fight.
On the left: control of both houses of Congress by large margins; dozens of progressive legislators; a wildly popular center-left president who ran on the most ambitious progressive domestic vision in a generation; a polity disgusted with conservative rule and conservatism, so much so that “socialism” has been staging a reputational comeback; a financial crisis that has exposed the bankruptcy of the elite economic consensus; a savvy progressive infrastructure built up during eight long, dark years; and finally, what should perhaps be definitive, healthy majorities who favor a progressive agenda–ending torture and the Iraq war, providing universal healthcare and pursuing a clean energy economy.
Amid the euphoria of election night, it seemed the left side of the ledger was all that mattered. For the past three months it’s been hard to ignore the right side. Now it all feels balanced on a knife’s edge.
Feeling that Hayes had summarized my own doubts, I tried, without peeking, to list his ideas on each side of the ledger. It’s an interesting exercise. Try it. Read his Establishment paragraph and see how many of the seven ideas there you can recall without peeking. Then do the same for the seven points he offers on the left side of the ledger.
Then read the rest of the article.