Obama, OFA, and the need for a movement

OBAMA, OFA, AND THE NEED FOR A MOVEMENT…. In his column today, Harold Meyerson notes that President Obama took office “at a moment when the intellectual force of laissez-faire economics was plainly spent,” and with an ambitious agenda in mind. “But as the first anniversary of his inauguration approaches, it’s clear that despite the impending enactment of a genuinely epochal expansion of health care, a progressive era has not burst forth,” Meyerson explains. “Major legislation languishes or is watered down. Right-wing pseudo-populism stalks the land. The liberal base is demobilized. The ’30s or the ’60s it ain’t.”

Most political observers can probably rattle off the usual explanations for this — GOP gone mad, unprecedented obstructionism and filibusters — but Meyerson argues, persuasively, that Obama, like his most recent Democratic predecessors, is burdened by a political landscape lacking “a vibrant left movement.” FDR and LBJ had them, and had plenty of accomplishments. Carter and Clinton didn’t, and made fewer gains.

Obama and his team were not blind to this reality, and crafted Organizing for America with the larger movement in mind. How’s that working out? The cover story in the new issue of the Washington Monthly considers the question with a fascinating story. The editors noted this morning:

Was Barack Obama’s election the beginning of a sea change in American politics, or the end of a fleeting burst of liberal activism? A year into Obama’s presidency, with Republicans still in disarray but liberals disheartened by the realities on the ground on Capitol Hill, Wall Street and the battlefields of Afghanistan, the answer is far from clear.

In “The Party of Obama,” Washington Monthly editor Charles Homans argues that the fate of the movement that propelled Obama into office rests largely on how the president himself chooses to use it — and most importantly, on whether the man who aspired to post-partisanship as a candidate can use his presidency to build an enduring Democratic Party dedicated to promoting his ideals.

The Homans piece is well worth reading. Take a look.