Barack Obama's right-wing opponents cast him as a socialist failure. His left-wing hecklers see him as an overcautious hedger… But by Election Day 2010, Obama will have soundly achieved many of his chief campaign promises while running a highly competent, scandal-free government. Not bad for a guy whose opponents (in both parties) for the White House suggested that he was too green in national life to know how to do the job — and whose presidency began in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis that demanded urgent attention and commanded much of his focus.
This is far from the whole story, of course: to "appreciate" Obama's successes cannot properly mean to be reconciled to them, but to appreciate the transformational forces they make available to us.
This is especially so for those of us on Obama's left who grasp the ways in which corporate-militarism, wealth concentration, and climate catastrophe are scarcely checked at all by all this middling "success" in their ongoing obliteration of democracy's prospects and even the prospects for human survival. But I also think it is true that no one who would address themselves in earnest to these larger problems is telling anything like the whole story of their remedial address unless they accept the substantial force of the political agency playing out at the level of the successes Halperin is pointing to here.
It is as wrong to mistake the inadequate for the insubstantial as it is to mistake it for adequacy. And it is hard for me to see from what will come the finally adequate if not from nudging at the substance of the as-yet-inadequate actually at hand.