Feature

He’s not the liberal Reagan yet

Will President Obama realize his goal of becoming the liberal Ronald Reagan?

Ross Douthat
NYTimes.com

Will President Obama realize his goal of becoming the liberal Ronald Reagan? asked Ross Douthat. Obama is well on his way to achieving “a philosophical reorientation of American domestic politics,” promoting what he calls “collective action”—that is, an activist government to solve the country’s problems. It’s a clear attempt to undo Reagan’s conservative revolution, in which government was seen not as the solution but as the problem. But while Obama has, in two successful elections, built a genuine liberal majority, “philosophical victories have to last to be considered real.” He has yet to prove that his government-driven solutions will work. In a still-sluggish economy, nearly 13 million Americans remain unemployed. Obamacare could yet fall apart at the seams due to its “design flaws” and incredible complexity. Budget deficits remain sky-high. At the start of Reagan’s second term, 51 percent of Americans were “very satisfied” with the nation’s direction; today, only 23 percent are. Unless Obama’s results match his rhetoric, the nation’s shift to the left “will remain at least partly reversible”—and his legacy will fall short of his grand dreams.

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