"Obama has not changed the political structure, he's working within it. Accusations about 'politics as usual' are not unfounded -- the agenda and direction of the country changed considerably on Inauguration Day, but the rules of the game haven't. President Obama's m.o., for the most part, seems to be built around choosing the issue, getting the best deal he thinks he can get, and then moving onto the next issue. The focus places an emphasis on problem solving, while leaving traditional power structures in place."
There's a significant split in opinion among Democrats in response to this pattern, and an inherent threat to Obama's legitimacy as a progressive leader.
Steven Benen takes the hopeful, wait-n-see:
"At least for now, that is.
President Obama has unique gifts, but overturning the D.C. political establishment in 11 months probably isn't a reasonable expectation. If/when health care reform becomes law, it will change, at a rather fundamental level, the relationship between the government and the populace, which may in turn create opportunities for re-writing the rules of the game. It's the kind of thing that will take time ... and a genuine, determined commitment. Time will tell."
Is Obama a slow turning, that is just getting started, or a grave, possibly fatal disappointment?
The question creates a natural divide, with many apologists saying that expectations for him were too high, etc.
I am sympathetic to this point of view. I admire pragmatism and a Whig sensibility, that preserves elites, but makes progress.
But, I worry. I don't think Obama can solve problems, and leave the power structure in place, or strengthen it, as Obama has consistently done, because -- fundamentally -- America's problems are its existing power structures.
I don't think a health insurance reform that leaves health insurance company stocks at a 52-year high is a good omen. I don't think a financial policy that grows the already gargantuan, largest banks can be a good thing.
Obama is not building new institutions, or undermining existing power structures. His health reform makes the promise of generous subsidies, but doesn't create a sure mechanism to fund them or deliver them; his health reform revises the rules on health insurance, but doesn't create an agency to enforce those rules.
Trading one futile, pointless, enormously costly war for another seems more like a step sideways, not forward.
It may be that there is wisdom here. Maybe these are baby steps, and one step will follow another, with increasing confidence. I'd like to believe that this health reform really does establish a principle of universal health care in our politics. I'd like to think Obama is committed to withdrawing from Afganistan . . . eventually. I'd like to think financial reforms are coming.
What I fear, though, is another a political storm, as the preservation of what clearly does not work, backfires. And, in that political storm, it will be the promise of progressive reform, which is discredited.