It’s been a theme on this blog from as far back as 2007 that Barack Obama could be as significant a president for the center-left as Ronald Reagan was for the conservative right. And in policy terms, as Jon Chait rather brilliantly argues, he still stands a good chance of that. If the ACA survives SCOTUS, it will be a real shift in social policy as durable as welfare reform or as Reagan’s tax cuts. If a deal with Iran is reached, along with the opening to Cuba, you have a foreign policy paradigm shift. The impact on climate change will be greater than under any previous president (not a high bar, but a real one). The gay civil rights revolution makes Obama our LBJ. The growing momentum behind legal marijuana is also a huge shift – along with a real tidal change in police tactics and sentencing. And this ignores the biggest negative achievement, saving us from a Second Great Depression. If the economy continues to pick up speed, and continues to beat every other advanced democracy’s, it’s hard not to see it helping cement this broader truth in the public consciousness, however intense the propaganda campaign has been against the guy.
There are, of course, events that can still up-end all this. But it seems clear to me that the attempt to turn Obama into another Carter – a project of the brain-dead right for the past six years – will fail. Here are two graphs from Gallup of presidential approval ratings, noted by Aaron Blake. Here’s how Obama stacks up against Carter:
Obama never reached 31 percent in approval ratings, was handily re-elected, and his current approval level is almost exactly the average of all presidencies at this point in their term. Here’s the Reagan comparison, which I’ve deployed before.
You’ll see at this point that Obama and Reagan are virtually tied – in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal. And you’ll notice that Obama never reached Reagan’s 35 percent approval low either. Is it possible, given increased growth in employment and now even wages that Obama could end up where Reagan was in his last two years? Perfectly possible. Which will frame the next election very differently, if Hillary doesn’t fuck it up the way Gore did after Clinton.
(Photo by Dennis Brack/Black Star via Getty)