1. Having nothing original to add, let me say a few thing about the excellent recent posts. I agree with Ivan the K that being a schoolmarmish professor is not a good look for the president. It allows the Republicans to seem more manly as naughty students who just won’t behave.
2. I agree with Carl in the thread along these lines: I know Woodrow Wilson and Professor Obama is nowhere near the pay grade of Professor Wilson. Wilson was quite the professor who made a number of original and important contributions to American political science. Of course he was mostly wrong, but he was so more on the remedies he recommended than on problems and shortcomings that needed attention. And even our Ralph noted below that it might be true that the progressive impetus enhanced elite public spiritedness in our country. Certainly our president has not been displaying what Wilson called real presidential leadership; he’s hasn’t unified HIS party around his mandate and vision, and he’s pretty much let the interests that dominate Congress run amok. He certainly hasn’t been following a Wilsonian foreign policy; the younger President Bush was closer to doing that. So Obama can’t be said to have affirmed or denied Wilsonian progressivism in any disciplined or coherent sense. Wilson’s books were about stuff like Congress, the presidency, the State, and the Constitution; Obama’s books were about his own audacious and hopeful journey. I actually think Wilsonian progressivism is dead, as I explained before.
3. One reason among many that progressivism is toast is that even the current welfare state is demographicaly unsustainable. Health care costs really do have to be brought under control in a environment where more and more old people are going to be dependent on fewer and fewer young and productive ones. Neither party will tell the truth about the only approach that might work. Our employed-based health care system is unsustainable and actually undesirable in our relentlessly more mobile and disloyal economy. Devolution to government won’t control costs over the long run. Devolution to the individual in a subsidized and regulated way—and in a way the sensitizes consumers to actual costs—is the only plausible way to go. Neither party will say that, because a majority of the voters are happy enough with the current employer-based situation.
4. Our former law professor president is much more like the former law professor Bill Clinton than the distinguished professor of political science Woodrow Wilson. (Minus the sleazy amorality—we have to remember that our current president is a good family man and generally not tainted by personal corruption.) What made the brainy Clinton less ideological and generally a much more competent president was working with a Republican Congress. And I think the same might well happen for our current brainy president. Genuine health care reform has to be a compromise, but neither party is incentivized to work with the other now. The president and Democratic Congress will be hurt if a reform bill with no popular mandate is forced through right now. They’ll also be hurt if they look so impotent that can’t get anything passed at all. So even if the president suddenly got all bipartisany, the Republicans aren’t about to let him out of his real sticky situation. Let’s hope the Republicans don’t blow this seemingly golden opportunity to get Congress back. As good Americans, we have to hope that our president gains this opportunity better to display his talents and do a better job of leading us.
5. These are the times to talk up American exceptionalism against the sophisticates, porchers, Europeans, and such. Even Tocqueville thought from time to time that Americans were a mixture of insane materialistic ardor and religious madness. And that’s certainly what Europeans, our sophisticates, and even our porchers think now. But we have to talk up the sustainability of the life of the Evangelical (or orthodox) workaholic family man (or woman). This guy is charitable, productive, sensible, patriotic, and does his replacement duty to his species. Without him (and her), our birth rate approaches that of, say, the France that is fading away. And this guy never thought it was a good idea to elect a president who didn’t appreciate him for who he is.
6. Meanwhile, we have to admit that the life of the bourgeois bohemian is not only less than admirable but unsustainable over the long term. And that’s because bourgeois narcissism trumps bohemianism, not to mention the personal God and public spiritedness, at every turn. On this point, Dr. Pat Deneen and ME are in total agreement.
7. I also join Carl in thinking jwc would be a good president. Despite his polemical urges, he’s basically a uniter, not a divider.