Spence pointed me to this, with which I agree 100%:
One thing that struck me about this comment is how it cut to the heart of what I think is wrong with the Obama presidency and how it contradicts his campaign. It's a problem even deeper than ideology, because it goes to where the differences in ideology come from. Put simply, Obama's campaign was one long exercise in upward counterfactual "thinking"--if, indeed, one could even call it "thinking". It was more like imagining: imagine that things will be dramatically better, because we all know that they can. And each of you can help by imagining that in your own way, and then pitching in....
There were limits to this, clearly. And I pointed them out at the time. There wasn't really a whole lot of content. But there was, at least, this upward counterfactual logic which just by its form embodied a promise.
But Obama's entire presidency has been entirely the reverse. It's been aboutdownward counterfactuals. It's been about settling. "Well, this isn't exactly what you want, but imagine how much worse it will be if we don't at least do this." That has been the logic of virtually everything the Obama Administration has done. And not just the finished legislation, but of all the pre-compromising, of the exclusion of idealistic voices--or even just long-suffering, hard-working, scientifically informed and/or militant ones.
Now, I'm very much a wonkish sort who's into how things work. And it's simply a fact that neo-liberalism is not how things work. So I tend to look at what Obama does and say, "Well, that's just more screwed up neo-liberal BS." And that's true. But it's also true that neo-liberalism means settling. It is, at it's very essence, a philosophy of settling. "Well, yes, you want X, Y and Z," the neo-liberal says. "And so do we. So does everyone. But you can't just go ahead and DO it the way you want to. You have to adapt. You have to use more conservative means. But don't worry, it's still for progressive ends." And this argument, by its very essential logic is a form of downward counterfactual thinking: If you don't do this.... It's Tony Blair accepting Margaret Thatcher's most famous dictum: "There is no alternative." Only he says, you can still make it work for progressive ends. But then it doesn't actually work out, and the process of downward adjustment continues, grows deeper, based on the argument, "Well, if not, imagine how much worse...."
And throughout all of this what is always being lost, piece by piece, bit by bit is the wild-eyed exuberance of limitless hope and aspiration. What's being lost is vision. What's being lost is the mindset of upward counterfactuals.
That's the bottom-line difference between how Obama campaigned and how he has governed.