“Generally speaking, we can divide liberals into two camps when it comes to rationalizing Obama’s policies: the Can’ts and the Won’ts. According to the Can’ts, Obama doesn’t live up to liberal expectations because it simply isn’t possible for him to do so. The President was dealt a bad hand: he took over during the worst economic period since the Great Depression, when America was fighting two wars (three, if you count the drone war in Pakistan), and then, since the mid-term elections, he’s had the misfortune of working in a sharply divided political system. He has therefore been forced, so the story goes, to advocate a bipartisan consensus more conservative than the one he would ideally pursue. (Indeed, the White house itself spent a good portion of last fall endorsing precisely this narrative.) The Won’ts, on the other hand, insist that these factors alone are insufficient to explain the President’s actions: it’s not that the President simply cannot fight for more liberal policies, it’s that he isn’t really committed to doing so. This camp points primarily to how long the list of failures has become and to the President’s refusal to reframe debates in terms that would be more amenable to liberal legislation, relying instead upon the rhetoric and representation of the political climate used by conservatives.
While I am certainly sympathetic to the Can’ts—it is undeniable that President Obama has been working under conditions that are less than ideal—I have become increasingly convinced that the Won’ts are right…”
(The Point Magazine, Issue V, Spring, 2012)