Alter Net's Joshua Holland has a cogent analysis in TruthOut.org of the discussion in liberal circles of whether Obama should be considered a success or a failure. In a particularly even-handed critique, Holland argues that:
... [T]his is actually a debate over whether one should do what one can within the political constraints of the day, or expend a lot of energy trying to move the political dialogue in one's preferred direction.
Holland also suggests that the Obama political team bears some responsibility for the ambivalence in progressive circles:
Obama didn't promise to do what he could to dig the country out of eight years of disastrous Republican governance: he promised to change Washington – to usher in a new era of comity and reason -- and people believed him. They shouldn't have, because at the end of the day, progressives still faced any number of structural hurdles.
In an earlier commentary, Holland noted:
... [T]he message is as hopelessly naive in the real world of American politics as it is appealing on the stump, and for a simple reason: it assumes that the GOP -- dominated as it is by "movement conservatives" in the Delay-Rove mold -- and it's corporate backers are interested in engaging in a thoughtful debate over how to make America a better country. If that were the case, then bridging the divide through calm words and negotiation would certainly be better by leaps and bounds than the ugly brand of politics we have today
While acknowledging that Obama's focus has not done much to move national political discourse to the left, as his critics on the left would like, Holland nonetheless asserts:
Obama's critics, by and large, haven't acknowledged what history likely will: Obama, faced with a devastated economy and an obstinate opposition, has arguably achieved more than one could reasonably expect given the political context.
And despite lower approval among self-described liberals during the debt-ceiling negotiations, Holland concludes by noting that:
As of late July, Obama enjoyed a higher approval rating among Democrats at this point in his presidency than any president since FDR – higher than Clinton, Kennedy or Truman. Recent polls show that 72 percent of self-identified liberals (and 77 percent of Democrats) approve of the job Obama has done....
Read the full article.