Writing in Salon, Joan Walsh is worrying that Obama is more worried about staying above it all than in making substantive policy change:
In my worst moments, I wonder if what seemed like an unexpected gift to the Democratic Party – this charismatic, unifying, “transcendent” president – could wind up setting the party back, because the pragmatic, content-free, bipartisan Obama appeal has nothing to do with getting done what Democrats need to do. To an extent the folks around Obama are right: Many of us on the left believed Obama’s victory was a mandate for the liberal policies he (sometimes quietly) backed on the campaign trail: serious healthcare reform legislation, a climate change bill, tough new financial regulation. But a subsection of Obama voters (no one knows how large) backed the president not because of specific programs, but because he promised a new kind of politics that could break through the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington. The Obama team doesn’t know exactly what he has to do to keep those voters in 2010 and 2012, but they seem to believe it doesn’t involve pushing tough Democratic legislation or bashing Republicans for their intransigence.
It’s hard to really know, of course, how much the White House can push without sparking a huge backlash, and the emergence of the Tea Party (crazed fringe movement or massive popular uprising?) probably makes it exceptionally hard to predict the political future. If I had the President’s ear I’d be tempted to argue that an administration that can find the rationale to temporarily take over General Motors can certainly find the rationale to temporarily take over BP, but consistency’s not a valued quality in politics.