In only about the last year and a half has President Obama started to display the behavior of a true progressive. He made the appearance of being one when he ran for president in 2008. Once he entered office, however, he all but deserted liberalism. First, he bailed out the banks. Then he failed to close Gitmo. After that he watered down his health care reform proposals by getting rid of the public option and allowing only minor civil penalties for health insurance companies that denied medical services. He failed to call for the reenactment of Glass-Steagall. On top of that, he proposed little to address student loans. One still cannot get out of student loans by filing for bankruptcy. President Obama, furthermore, failed to do anything to allow people to move out of phony-baloney mortgages.
Things changed slightly in the spring of 2012, when he came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. On the other hand, President Obama did this the day after North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban these marriages. If he had come out for same-sex marriage before the vote maybe the proposal would not have passed.
In the last month, we have seen President Obama embrace more progressive principles. First, he appointed Janet Yellen to the Federal Reserve. Then he stood firmly with Congress in the budget battle.
If he had taken a firm progressive stand when he first took office, while the country was rallying behind him, the world would be a much better place. First, he should have had the government temporarily take over defaulting banks, such as Bank of America and Citibank. After he straightened them out, Uncle Sam could have sold them. That way our treasury would have made money rather than lose billions in a bailout. It would have sent banks a message that they had better run their finances honestly and competently.
Unemployment would not have gone up to practically ten percent, and we would have begun our recovery earlier. Then the Tea Partiers would not have been able to obtain the Republicans a House majority in the 2010 midterm elections. Without a Republican House Obama could have tried true progressive deficit reduction schemes: tax hikes for the wealthy, ending the costly war on drugs and Pentagon budget cuts. That is assuming Obama would want to try progressive deficit reduction measures.
While Obama had strong popular support he should have pushed for quick passage of a progressive health care reform package, and immediately closed Gitmo. Having a new health care law with teeth to it would have made Americans feel the advantages of having extensive and affordable health insurance that cannot be denied. They would have realized that it would not destroy America. Closing Gitmo would have caused conservatives to screech, but they screech anyway. Obama should still have done what was right. Many Americans would have awarded him for sticking to his principles.
He then should have called for other popular progressive legislation, such as fixing the student debt crisis and allowing people to get out of their mortgages. Then President Obama could have been called a true progressive.
I just hope his new evolving positions will materialize into support for progressive legislation and policies. Right now I am kind of skeptical. Even if he does become a true progressive, it will be hard for him to do anything with the Republican/Tea Party House. If the Democrats manage to take back the House in 2014 then maybe he can do something in his last two years.