In a long article in the September edition of Harper's Magazine Thomas Frank argues that Obama's conciliatory nature has led his first term to look like a Bush third term.Frank starts out his Harper's article by noting that Obama won the presidency four years back in a wave of what he calls progressive fantasy.
But instead of continuing using progressive terms and adopting progressive policies he has borrowed Republican analogies Obama likes to compare the national budget to a family budget. Just as when times get tough families have to tighten their belts so does the government. This analogy has long been used by Republicans. Obama is a Democrat and Democrats are supposed to believe in government spending when the economy is declining.
Obama also likes to say that America should look forward not backward. Hence he is not going to look at such past practices as rendition or Bush's torture policies or at who was responsible for the financial disasters of 2008. As Frank puts it:.” It’s a kind of intellectual amnesty program that has absolved in one fell swoop the nation’s failed political leadership and pundit corps."
Rather than closing Guantanamo and trying those held in civilian courts Obama has revived the military tribunals that were so reviled during the Bush term in office. Many who are there will continue to be held without trial.
In other respects as well the Obama program is warmed over Republican policy. Obamacare is based upon material borrowed from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Romneycare in Massachusetts. Obama's bank bailouts resemble Bush bank bailouts. The chairman of the Fed under Bush is still there under Obama.
Obama did decide to go on a populist mission and apparently go after Wall Street but as Frank says:"When he decided to go populist and snarl at the One Percent, he tookcare to dispatch an emissary to New York to let the finance industryknow he didn’t mean it. (Just as he didn’t mean it when he badmouthed NAFTA or promised to revisit the Patriot Act.)
Although Obama has constantly pursued compromise with the Republicans and adopted conservative ideas on health care, deficit spending, and other areas his reward for trying to move to the middle and compromise is to be described as a socialist dictator!
As Obama reaches for compromise the Republicans can move further to the right. At the same time the political spectrum becomes so warped that the Republicans can offer some of the same policies that created the financial mess as solutions namely more deregulation and more tax cuts. As for Obama he is regarded seriously as leading the U.S. to European style socialism. While willing to compromise and anxious to reach bipartisan agreement Obama keeps having his agenda set by the right as he moves further and further towards their positions as they move even further to the right.