The Obama era should have been a high watermark for American liberalism. Democrats in 2009 not only laid claim to the House, the filibuster-proof Senate, and the White House, but did so during an economic recession in which jobs vanished, wages shrank, and Wall Street was held in nearly universal contempt. Deregulation was out and stimulus was in. The table was better set for progressive ideas than at any time since the Great Depression.Purple could have added the decline of race relations under the Obama administration, the president's refusal to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders, his legally dubious abuse of executive orders, his decision to release five hardened terrorists in exchange for one American deserter, the growing inequality between rich and poor, the constant seige of scandal that has beset his administration from the Secret Service to the NSA, VA, EPA, IRS and on to Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and on and on.
Early on, liberals made three calculations that cost them dearly. First, given enough political capital to tackle either sweeping Wall Street reform or sweeping health care reform, but not both, President Obama chose the latter. The public viewed that as a diversion from the real economic issues—jobs and wages—and punished Democrats in the 2010 elections, releasing the left’s hold on Congress.
Second, liberals hitched their fate to the economy by pledging that their policies would end the recession. They often did this in tangible terms, as when the president’s economic advisors said unemployment would never exceed 8 percent if the stimulus was passed. None of this worked as planned: GDP growth was anemic, the economy stagnated, and the unemployment rate jumped to 10 percent in October 2009. It wouldn’t dip below 8 percent for another three years. Democrats suffered accordingly.
Third, following the placards-and-pitchforks election of 2010, Democrats began crusading against their political opponents with the desperation of a party shut out of power. The left’s obsession with stopping the Tea Party became so all-consuming that it distracted from the business of crafting policy. By the 2014 election, Democrats stood for nothing beyond sticking it to the anti-Obamacare wingnuts and shadowboxing something called the War on Women. While liberals smirked at Obama Derangement Syndrome, their own derangement was in a very advanced stage.
And that gets to the grand irony here. Liberals spent years sneering that Republicans were the party of no, out of ideas, deathly, dying, dead. This spurred conservatives and engendered a Great Awakening on the right the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Contract with America. It was liberalism that went bankrupt, with little internal dialectic and nothing to show but hatred, economic stagnation, and the same hoary tax-and-spend policies it’s been trying for decades.
Purple could also have noted the mess the Obama administration has made of our foreign policy. We've alienated many of our friends and lost the respect of many of our enemies. Our appeasement of the Iranians has made the world less safe. Our refusal to aid the Ukrainians in any substantive way has sacrificed them to Mr. Putin's hegemonic ambitions. Our precipitous withdrawal from Iraq created a vacuum which ISIL rushed in to fill, slaughtering Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims by the thousands. Our unwise approach to Egypt and Libya has turned the latter into chaos and only the action of the Egyptian military, against Mr. Obama's wishes, has prevented chaos there. Mr. Obama's strategy, such as it is, of leading from behind around the world, so far from intimidating the world's tyrants, has served only to embolden them.
All of this has eroded confidence in the competence of this White House in particular and in the ability of the left in general to run the country, which perhaps explains why only two incumbent Republicans, Pennsylvania's governor and a Florida congressman, failed to win re-election in the 2014 mid-terms while Democrat incumbents were decimated. These losses have been catastrophic for the Democratic Party, coming on the heels of a disastrous mid-term in 2010, and leaving it with very few young, promising faces. Consequently, there's almost no one the party can run for president in 2016 other than the scandal-plagued Hillary Clinton who has no accomplishments to which she can point which qualify her for the nation's highest office, and who is running simply on the circumstance that she's married, sort of, to Bill Clinton.
Things can turn around quickly, of course. The United States has a volatile electorate, but at the moment the future looks bleak for the left, and they've pretty much done it all to themselves.