Barack Obama is absolutely nothing like Ronald Reagan

While it’s certainly true that both President Barack Obama and President Ronald Reagan were able to build wide coalitions and had a personal charisma that distinguished them from other politicians; that is where their similarities end, contra Lucas Ropek’s argument earlier this week.

For one, it is myopic to draw such a parallel based solely on the idea that both administrations presided over periods in which their rhetoric outpaced their legislative accomplishments. By that logic, any and all politicians are Reaganesque.  What troubles me about Lucas’s argument, however, is its embrace of conservatives’ assessment of Obama’s foreign policy record on the one hand, and the far-left’s interpretation of his domestic accomplishments on the other. If you insist on criticizing your cake and eating it, too, then of course the Obama presidency has been a failure.

However neither assessment is fair to the President or his handling of the political situation he inherited.

There can be no doubt that Obama’s use of drones is a legitimate human rights concern, an act of American aggression that fuels international resentment and takes innocent human lives, and that must be drastically reformed.  However it is simply nothing compared to the violence and havoc wrought by his predecessor. America should never take civilian lives, but the first night of the Iraqi invasion killed more civilians than Obama’s administration has during his entire tenure.

I, too, tire of the guy who’s always defending the lesser-of-two-evils, but the virtue of the Obama Presidency’s foreign policy is simply not about killing fewer people. Obama is the first President to accept the need to curtail, not expand our international military presence, going against a tradition of manifest destiny told as the country.

Lucas also makes light of Obama’s key legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act. While we all would have liked to see more from his Presidency — more dollars in aid to the poor, more programs to help kids get access to education and social services, and so on — the sad fact of the matter is that each President usually signs one major piece of legislation during their administration.  Given the fact that Americans were still dying for being poor, and given that many administrations had tried and failed to address the problem before — the ACA was and is a monumental achievement that has made the lives of nearly 20 million Americans better. Period.

President Obama, via Pixabay

President Obama, via Pixabay

When it comes to the environment, an issue near and dear to many liberals’ hearts, Barack Obama has been a game-changer. Ronald Reagan famously dismantled the solar panels on the White House placed there by Jimmy Carter.  Barack Obama created subsidies to give them away to low-income homeowners. And that’s to say nothing of President Obama’s use of the EPA to regulate coal-fired power plants — perhaps the biggest step to curb carbon emissions any president has ever taken.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Barack Obama isn’t a bigot. Reagan was. Obama didn’t allow 500,000 people to die needlessly of AIDS due to his homophobia. He didn’t start the War on Drugs (he’s actually de-escalating it), and he didn’t actively work to expand the military industrial complex. Obama didn’t neglect urban centers during White Flight; just today he announced new HUD rules to push back against housing discrimination. And his administration has worked to curb flagrantly racist drug sentencing codes codes that send black people to jail for twice as long as whites for doing essentially the same thing.

To tie this all together, we should also consider that Reagan’s soaring popularity rendered the Left politically impotent. It took a Southern governor and two decades of corporate friendly Democrats to make the Democratic Party competitive again. Our primary’s frontrunners are now a female champion of family reform and a candidate who doesn’t shy away from the term “socialist.”

Of course, of course, of course we are right to have expected more. And we should never be complacent in the face of injustice in the name of short-term gains. But it is the conservative movement that is politically impotent now. While Obama’s caution may have disappointed us all, we didn’t have to wait long for evidence that it paid off.

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8 Responses to “Barack Obama is absolutely nothing like Ronald Reagan”

  1. Bruce Hackel says:

    All I have to say is that the America political system has needed a seriuos reboot for as long as I can remember. We need a whole new group of people, not the career politicians that we we have been saddled with forever. They all seem to go bad after the first couple of years, for whatever reason! GREED MAYBE, OR EGO or maybe both. But it sure would be refreshing to have someone who did what the coutry needs to grow and prosper. Stop pandering to the special interest group.

  2. arcadesproject says:

    Obama said he is a Reagan Republican. ‘It’s funny how things change over time. Twenty years ago, I would have been called a Reagan Republican’, were his words. Or very, very close to them.

    I don’t believe much of what O says, but that was correct.

  3. salsolomon says:

    Congratulations to James Dennin for being an unapologetic Obama apologist. Consider this just one aspect: Even after it has been shown that Obama cared a million times more for the corporate-sponsored TPP than for the public option, Dennin still feels the need to apologize for Obama. The list of such aspects, which really throw real light on what the real Obama is, is really long. Nevertheless, Dennin, and his ilk, are never satisfied with their continual and unending apologies for their all-mighty.

  4. Badgerite says:

    Utterly absurd. Reagan was the one who first instituted an official ban on gays in the military, I believe. He was a ‘fierce advocate’ —but in the other direction.

  5. Indigo says:

    It’s pretty much 50/50, depending on where the individual debater places the emphasis. By Fox News standards, the one who shouts the loudest wins. As far as I’m concerned, one’s white, the other one’s black. That’s where it lands, IMHO.

  6. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama is worse than Reagan.

    Reagan attacked Grenada, a Pentagon version of the Special Olympics, intervened against the Nicaraguan people and bombed Libya. Obama has invaded or continued American aggression in in Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He building bases across Africa and his State Department contributed to the creation of fascist fighting groups in Ukraine. He’s playing chicken with the Chinese and Russia.

    Reagan busted Patco and continued Carters union busting in the transportation and communication fields and facilitated the transfer of union jobs to non union nations. He pushed NAFTA and deregulation (although it was Bill Clinton, of DADT/DOMA fame) who finally elbowed both through Congress and then signed them.)

    Obama busted the UAW, the crown jewel of American labor and he and Rahm Emanuel are going after teachers and other public workers unions in Chicago and elsewhere.

    Reagan was a McCarthyite and a virulent anti-leftists but it was Obama who put the finishing touches of the American police state with his racist murders of American citizens, NDAA provisions for indefinite detention and his rabid support for the Paytriot Act and FISA.

    Reagan was bad for workers and good for the rich with his bailout of the Carters S&L crisis, but Obama has been much worse. Wages and our standard of living have dropped, Obama and his cabinet are tools of the banksters. “Matt Taibbi: Eric Holder Back to Wall Street-Tied Law Firm After Years of Refusing to Jail Bankers In the latest sign of the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, recently retired U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is returning home — to the corporate law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked for eight years before becoming head of the Justice Department. During his time at Covington, Holder’s clients included UBS and the fruit giant Chiquita. The law firm’s client list has included many of the big banks Holder failed to criminally prosecute as attorney general for their role in the financial crisis, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. We speak with Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. “I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had,” Taibbi says. Watch the video http://www.democracynow.org/2015/7/8/eric_holder_returns_to_wall_street My underlining

  7. heimaey says:

    He’s better than Regan but still needs to stop spying on us.

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