President Obama has endured much criticism of his legislative skills from his fellow progressives. His conciliatory approach has been compared unfavorably with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s gleeful pugnacity and Lyndon B. Johnson’s relentless arm-twisting. His willingness to strike deals with corporations has been tagged “business as usual.” Many progressives, frustrated over the past three years, have concluded that the political system is fundamentally broken because corporate power has been allowed to suffocate popular liberal policies.
But the Supreme Court’s upholding of Mr. Obama’s health care law reminds us that the president’s approach has achieved significant results. If his liberal critics paused to assess how he achieved such results, they would not see a system paralyzed by corporations; they would see that the most liberal reforms in more than 40 years have been brought about because Mr. Obama views corporate power as a force to bargain with, not an enemy to vanquish.
The necessity of corporate support for, or at least acquiescence to, liberal policies is not a new development in the history of American liberalism. Indeed it has been one of its hallmarks.
This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in the Sunday Opinion section of The New York Times July 1. Read the full article.