If you listen to talk radio or watch Fox News, you would term Barack Obama a “radical”, a “socialist”, or “extremely liberal”.
But that is not what you hear from Howard Dean, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, former Governor of Vermont, and early front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2004.
This is also what you would not hear from MoveOn.org or the blog website Daily Kos. They and Dean have denounced the health care bill as a surrender to the insurance industry and the conservatives, and have called for its defeat, although all 60 Democrats voted for it on the day before Christmas. They say that Obama has caved in, and not kept his promises during the campaign on so many things, including not just health care, but Afghanistan and the issue of gay rights.
They tend to interpret Obama’s campaign for President as promising more than he has done, when actually, Obama never promised to get out of Afghanistan, and never promised a “public option”, and pledged forward movement on gay rights, but not something that would happen overnight, considering the strong opposition to any change. Obama actually ran as a moderate liberal in the mainstream, although the controversy over his minister was exaggerated to make him seem overly radical.
Like every Democratic President in the past century, much more is expected of Obama than is realistic to expect to occur in just one year, and possibly at any point. The country is not anywhere near as liberal or progressive as left wing groups like to imagine, and the way to success is to stay in the middle of the political spectrum, with some tipping to the left on certain issues and at appropriate times.
If one goes by ideological purity, then Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton were all disappointments, constantly under attack by the left that existed at their time for refusing to go further left than they did.
And yet all of these Democratic Presidents made major contributions that are historic and long lasting in domestic and foreign policy. All made significant changes in America, on a much larger and positive scale than most of the Republican Presidents of the past century.
So Barack Obama is the pragmatist, and in the long run, this is the tradition of the American Presidency, particularly under Democratic Presidents!