Saturday, June 22, 2013

Obama Presidency - Progressives Lament

As Netroots Nation gathers in San Jose, Progressives are content in that President Obama is essentially on Progressive side; but for the Congress he is not able to move the agenda. What I wonder though is how much of a responsibility it is of a leader to anticipate these hurdles in order to be truly transformative? Great leadership and enduring legacy happen when that Leadership overcomes completely unknown  and new kind of challenges to move an agenda to take forward our People. 

For the first two years of  his Presidency; President Obama, Rahm Emmanual and their cohort were simply washed out in the world wide adulation showered on them. True, once in century economic challenges swamped the Administration and the Administration dealt those with admiring and effective competence; no doubts about that. But while economic fire fighting was on the right course (Summers, Geithner and Bernanke will be regarded very highly by History; but sadly Christina Rommer will be stuck with some unfair appraisal); it was required for President Obama to sense quickly - and adopt to - the developing challenges of Tea Party.

It will be a while before we will come to know with certainty whether it was a right 'call' to push ObamaCare while Congress was Democratic and risk all the wrath of Tea Party subsequently; or the wiseness was in holding off ObamaCare for a while. Imagine President Obama halted ObamaCare sensing 'exploitation by Tea Party'. Would it have stemmed the subsequent 2010 loss of Democrats in House? I doubt. But then President might have had room to pass some compromised version of Health Care reforms in 112th Congress. 

Even if one accepts that in the end the political decision of 'pushing ObamaCare' in 111th Congress was right (and I am still inclined to accept that) as controlling all 3 elected levers of power in Washington is not frequent; fact is President Obama and his political machinery was very slow to realize the 'hard ball game' Republicans were already pulling on him. ObamaCare or not; in hindsight I believe not grasping ramifications of Tea Party emergency  is the single most blot Obama Presidency has. Consequences are essentially tattering of progressive agenda and trench warfare to push forward every single piece of legislation. 

We need 'forward sensing' ability in our leader. Even now, I am not sure President Obama is so tuned to dynamics evolving in House - the only way House can pass anything is by essentially looping out at least quarter of Republican caucus. Unless these Tea Party members of House are essentially passed over, unless a sufficient 'room' is created for Speaker Boehner to maneuver bills on backs of Democrats; President Obama is not going to be able to get anything legislatively.

Another failure of President Obama as a party chieftain has been not to anticipate gerrymandering of House Districts which Republicans pulled. Essentially Dem political operatives dropped the ball in sufficiently warning about how 30 Governorship in Red Column would rig re-districting to Republican advantage. Point is if any American President wishes to make consequential changes in domestic policies (and that is what supposedly Obama wanted since when you run as a President who 'winds down foreign wars'; Presidency is all about domestic agenda); that President better understands emerging political scenarios in States, impeding Census and it impacts on defining Congressional districts. Fundamental political power is at play in those matters. It is doubtful President Obama every grasped importance of this. He thought he could jump from the air and change Washington. That is the lack of maturity probably progressives have paid dearly for. Going forward American Presidents need to be more and more like Parliamentary Leaders - you win your own majority in Congress to get anything done of substance. You fail in that - then it does not matter how much 'moral high grounds' you occupy; you ain't going get anything of significance.

This failure to engage in domestic politics and attempt to change the system in 'top down' manner, that is making Obama Presidency as simply 'also ran'. Large swath of Americans are reluctantly accepting Obama because they are 'in terror' when they look at how economically destructive Republican Agenda is. As American Politics become more and more Parliamentary type, the importance of leadership rose from grass roots, carrying substantial factions of the party together, will only increase. There is no substitute for 'physical retail politics' and for Obama Presidency that has been always an after thought.

Obama dragged American Politics 'leaps and bounds' in Internet and Big Data Era; History will judge that as one of the effective contributions. Obama exploited this advantage successfully and with some fantastic skill. Essentially Big Data driven 'digital retail Politics' is Obama's 'drone weapon' to his domestic political opponent. What he however missed is to deploy this unprecedented advantage - which he has built from scratch - in service of other Democratic candidates of Congress and even for some key governorship. Except fighting for Harry Raid's re-election for Senate in 2010; very rarely Obama has applied full force of his digital political machinery to these Congressional Elections. Unless he does that, all that digital infrastructure built will go waste in some sense whereas meanwhile Republican Politicians like Sen. McConnell (and I suspect Sen. Rand Paul in future for his presidential bid) will for sure undertake the 'catch up' play. That is where tomorrow's American politics will be fought and that is where President Obama has a chance to bequeath his progressive successors this digital infrastructure to redeem himself in some sense from the debts of his Progressive Base.

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