Democrats Turn On Obama’s “Establishment” Legacy As 2020 Approaches

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Wed, 01/16/2019

As Democrats turn their attention to the 2020 primaries, there is a marked sense of deflation over the prospects of beating Donald Trump. The thought of candidacies from Elizabeth Warren – botched DNA “reveal” aside, and the ever-confident Joe Biden, have failed to stoke much excitement throughout the Democratic base.

As Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank notes, Democrats surveying their options going into 2020 have begun to genuinely question the state of their party – and an increasing number of them are settling on the conclusion that Obama was a bad president.

If today’s Democrats can’t beat Trump, then maybe Hillary Clinton wasn’t as bad a candidate as her critics claimed. And if Clinton wasn’t the problem, then what was the problem? Such questions are behind a recent spike of debates on the left over Barack Obama’s record. More and more voices seem to be saying, either obliquely or bluntly, that Obama was a bad president. -Vanity Fair

Most on the left will agree that when Obama ran he was the obvious choice vs. his Republican opponents. In fact, Democrats who object to how Obama handled major issues such as war and peace, health care, immigration and the economy would likely conclude that he was still the better of all the evils on the right.

That said, Obama was an establishment man at the end of the day, after campaigning as a revolutionary that would end wars and “change” the status quo (powered of course by mass quantities of “hope”). He sold himself as a disruptive phenomenon, then bombed seven countries and cobbled together an unsustainable healthcare plan destined to fail.

That makes it tempting to say that Obama is being criticized only for pushing insufficiently to the left, settling for the Affordable Care Act rather than Medicare for All or a stimulus package under a trillion dollars rather than one twice that size. But such an explanation tends to assume a difference of degree rather than kind, with Obama dwelling in a more purplish spot than his bluer critics. In reality, the categories that matter as much as left and right are those of establishment and radical. Obama’s record of siding reliably with the former at a time when the zeitgeist had come to favor the latter is the source of much of the tension over his legacy.

The categories of establishment and radical are tricky to define, except to say that the former wishes to preserve much of the status quo, while the latter seeks more fundamental change. If one side is full of people with opinions on how to set the dials, the other is full of people who say we need a new instrumental panel. This creates interesting alliances of left and right, ones that are less a union of extremes—a product of what political scientists call “horseshoe theory”—and more a union of dissent. A radical is not an extremist, necessarily. It’s someone who believes the fundamentals are flawed. -Vanity Fair

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