One of the people who expressed a dissenting view from the left on this topic is Jonathan Bernstein. Here's his conclusion.
Add it all up and Obama, if he wants to be a president who really changes things for the better, should … well, it’s boring and obvious, but he should mostly focus on promoting good public policy. Not fighting the good fight or talking the good talk for liberal ideals, but just getting done whatever he can get done given all the constraints that surround him. Well-implemented plans will be hard for subsequent presidents to displace. And presidents who make good policy tend to be popular, thereby ensuring that partisans seek to replace them (not only immediately, but into the future) with similar candidates. In other words, he should pretty much focus on being a good president, and let the rest of it take care of itself. No, it’s not as exciting as imagining that Obama can win arguments for a generation by choosing exactly the right words at the right time—but no one, certainly not Ronald Reagan, could do that. And it does have the benefit of being how politics really works.On one level, I agree with Bernstein. For a long time now I've been saying that the best way to advance the liberal agenda is through good government. But even Bernstein focuses most of his argument on passing good legislation and tends to give short shrift to the equally important work that is supposed to be the main role of the President - which is to administer good government.
Overall, this is something President Obama did very well in his first term (especially the first 2 years). He not only got monumental legislation passed (ie, stimulus, universal health care, Wall Street reform), he also reassured Americans that government can work (ie, rescuing the auto industry, FEMA, etc.)
But many of the President's critics suggested that it felt piecemeal...that he didn't tie it all together with a liberal vision. As much as some of us fought that criticism (rightfully so when it came in the idiotic version of people like Drew Westen), President Obama has suggested they had a point.
"When I think about what we've done well and what we haven't done well, the mistake of my first term — couple of years — was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right," Obama said. "And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."From his speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention with its focus on citizenship to his suggestion that Washington will only change from the outside to the re-formation of Organizing for Action to his inaugural address, you see President Obama putting that awareness into practice.
Obama acknowledged that he could have been better at "explaining" matters, but also "inspiring" the American people.
"It's funny — when I ran, everybody said, 'Well, he can give a good speech, but can he actually manage the job?' " Obama continued. "And in my first two years, I think the notion was, 'Well, he's been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where's the story that tells us where he's going?' And I think that was a legitimate criticism."
Yes, he has to get the policy right. But he also knows that in order to tap into the fact that the American people are ready for change, he has to provide a vision of where we are going...together.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.