Among my many weaknesses as a writer and "political commentator" is that I have already come to a conclusion: that Obama is a center-right technocrat, who, while smart, seems to lack intellectual curiosity and a critical perspective that might lead him to solutions to problems outside of the ideologies of official Washington, the most pernicious of which is that "centrism" is a compromise between two extremes, instead of being another "radical" ideology itself, one that presumes that creating any long-lasting solution to any problem that afflicts this nation besides, of course, capitalist accumulation, would be undemocratic (of course, there is no long-term solution for the problems of accumulation, but at least they are trying). That he is slightly less radical than George W. Bush (though now that the budget has been published, this tiny bit of credit is much harder to grant) on domestic issues is cold comfort given his extension of Bush's foreign policy and his continuous attacks on civil liberties. Like Bill Clinton, Obama won his election on a combination of personality and a willingness to claim pragmatic, Republican policy as his own. And like Clinton, Obama's victory will be his alone; little good has and will come to the Democratic party, as, willingly or unwillingly, the gap between them and Republicans will continue to narrow and it will become harder for them to distinguish themselves, except, of course, when they are running against Tea Party candidates, who, even in defeat, will gain the victory of having compelled their Democratic opponents to move further to the right. This problem is compounded by the fact that Obama's administration is absolutely incompetent at apprising the American people of the few decent things that they have done.
It is a bleak conclusion but one which fails and will fail to give any credit for any positive accomplishments, and fails and will fail to draw the subtle distinctions between crappy and almost decent policy that, on a grand scale, seem meaningless, but, on a smaller scale, may matter to the lives of some individuals. But if that is my problem, the problem that the sentence quoted above reveals is even worse: a weird blindness to the general borne of an overindulgence of the particulars. Even if the Times' question is rhetorical, two years into Obama's administration, it is a silly question. But the answer isn't. Simply put, Obama doesn't want to do do what you want him to do, and, more importantly, what you think he wants to do.
If politics were a game, at this point, it would be (American) football, only without the possibility of touchdowns, field goals or punts. In the continuous discussion of what play to call, and how those plays are executed, the impossibility of scoring, of victory, of resolution of any sort, is unaccounted for. If victory is impossible, if neither team will win, then the game is just a distraction and the two teams, regardless of their animus, become de facto conspirators, boasting about the inches they have gained here and there as a way of distracting you from realizing that those inches are insignificant if there is no desitnation towards which they have brought us closer. To argue about Obama's decisions as quaterback of the team with the ball is to be commiserate with said distraction. Why does a football player play football?
It should be obvious to us, who can look back on the struggles for civil liberties that were waged in this country in the twentieth century, that anything good that was ever done was done outside of the political party system. Laws were signed once a significant portion of the populace supported them, and that support came from work not done by Democrats or Republicans, but by people. Legislation tracks changing beliefs; it does not change them.
Even though I will eventually be enticed, probably by the spectacle of the upcoming presidential race, if nothing interesting happens sooner, of going back to my boring link-plus-commentary ways (actually, even this fits that mold), I will be a bit sad about it. Having come to this feeling about politics, and the relationship between the political system and social change, I want to find something outside of it to contribute to. SNCC? CORE? BPP? What are the modern analogues? After living in DC and having worked with a few non-profits, I have no answer, as those groups seemed just as interested in playing cheerleader to the game as anybody else.