Bill Press The Hill - As an out-of-body experience, it’s hard to beat: Sitting on the couch watching the Sunday morning shows, when suddenly you hear Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos hammer Bernie Sanders about a blurb he wrote for the cover of your new book.
The last thing I wanted to do in this book, “Buyer’s Remorse: How President Obama Let Progressives Down,” was put Sanders on the spot.
My goal was simply to tell the truth: that President Obama has done a lot of good things. Among others, he’s delivered ObamaCare, saved the auto industry, led the way on gay rights and climate change, brokered the Iran nuclear deal and restored relations with Cuba.
At the same time, let’s be honest, he’s not always been the strong leader that progressives, perhaps naively, had hoped for.
In three ways, in fact, he’s let progressives down, either by taking no action at all, settling for too little or continuing the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Obama disappointed many of us, for example, by doing nothing on gun control or immigration reform for his first four years. To this date, he still has not tackled the serious issue of a record amount of special interest, dark money in politics. And the income gap between the wealthiest and middle-class Americans has grown wider than ever under his watch.
Ironically, his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is also one area where the president fell short.
This was the time for America to move toward a single-payer healthcare system. Instead, we got a hodge-podge called ObamaCare. Yes, Obama brought us closer to universal healthcare than we’ve ever been before, but some 30 million Americans are still without health insurance, either because they can’t afford it or they choose not to buy it.
And we’re still dependent on private insurance companies, which can raise rates every year, and pharmaceutical companies, which can raise the price of prescription drugs.
At first, in lieu of “single-payer,” Obama championed the alternative of a “public plan option,” but then he dropped it without a vote.
Perhaps most disappointing for progressives are those areas where Obama merely continued the policies of former President George W. Bush. We expected him to curtail the National Security Agency’s widespread eavesdropping on American citizens. Instead, he defended it. He’s vastly expanded the deployment of killer drones. He’s deported far more immigrants than Bush. And, over the objections of Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, he forced through another colossal trade deal that will cost American jobs.
If Bush had done some of those same things, progressives would be raising hell. We should do no less under Barack Obama.
Most importantly, we should learn an important lesson: It’s not enough to elect a person you think is a progressive. We have to keep the pressure on him or her to make sure they deliver on the progressive agenda as president.