Dr. Cornel West is a leading liberal public intellectual. He gave an interview to NewsOne immediately following the 2012 Election that was nothing if not provocative. Dr. West said he was happy Romney didn’t win, but far from satisfied with the Obama record and especially with the just-ended presidential campaign:
So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.
Say that again? If one of my conservative colleagues had dared to say anything remotely like that, he (or she) would have been charged with racism of the worst sort. Still, it is worth considering the merits of Cornel West’s argument.
Has President Obama really been so disappointing from a genuinely left-wing perspective? I suggest he has not. Nor has he been “incompetent,” as so many of my conservative colleagues are charging. Most recently, some have raised the bar (or, perhaps, lowered it) by claiming that President Obama’s administration is one of “epic incompetence.”
President Obama has seemingly floated above these charges, these criticisms left and right. He marches to the beat of a different drummer.
He shrugged off sharp criticism from the Clinton camp in 2008. Recall he raised the hackles of Bill and Hillary then by saying Ronald Reagan was a “transformational” president in a way that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were not. The Clintons were enraged. But candidate Obama was exactly right. He was giving the Gipper a left-handed compliment, to be sure. He granted that Reagan had transformed American politics — but in no way that he, Obama, would approve of.
In fact, the Clintons and most of the establishment media missed the real point of Mr. Obama’s statement: He was promising liberal activists that he would be the kind of transformational president for the left that Reagan was for conservatives.
And so he has been. His administration began by exercising control over the banks, insurance companies, and major automakers. All this was done in the name of pulling the country out of its economic nosedive. Mr. Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers reassured worried corporate leaders that the administration was not going to nationalize everything, but only “the commanding heights of the economy.”
Austin Goolsbee seemed blissfully unaware of the Marxian roots of that expression and that tactic. Apparently, it is getting harder to distinguish between classic Marxism and liberal thought in our Ivy League faculty lounges.
After passing a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill that failed to stimulate, Mr. Obama spent the next year driving through the takeover of 1/6 of the U.S. economy. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been going through the throes of “implementation” ever since.
Millions of Americans feel like they’ve been put on the rack. It is torture. Most of the media coverage has focused on the “botched” rollout of the www.healthcare.gov website. But the “patient protection” part of the 2,000-page opus is also obviously false. Millions who had health coverage have lost it. The “affordable care” part is likewise clearly false. For millions, the doctors they liked and the plans they could afford are suddenly out of reach.
From a political science perspective, however, that part of the Obama plan least commented upon is the last word in its title: Act. It is not an Act of Congress, at all.
What passes for Obamacare today is not the bill that was rammed through both houses of Congress—using Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s most questionable tactics. It is not the measure signed with great fanfare by President Obama in an East Room ceremony on March 23, 2010. (Yes, that was the august ceremony that Court Jester Joe Biden told us was a “big f___ing deal!)
Obamacare today is not even the challenged law that was adjudicated and narrowly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012. That was a dog’s breakfast of a ruling, but even that is not the main point.
Obamacare as it is today is vastly different. It is an ongoing process. It is an administrative amoeba, constantly changing, growing, transforming itself — and us. We no longer have laws, we have mandates.
There have been no fewer than 41 major changes to Obamacare since its initial passage. It is impossible to say today what Obamacare will mandate tomorrow. But President Obama will nonetheless make tomorrow’s changes mandatory.