Go check out Vox principal Ezra Klein act as a Democratic party hack as he tries to turn millennials’ disenchantment with Barack Obama into some kind of statement about young liberals wising up to the structure of the US government. Let’s turn it over to Ezra:
Electing the right president is a (probably) necessary but not nearly sufficient condition to bringing change to American politics. The Obama years have been proof of that: in 2009 and 2010, when Obama was working with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, he was able to sign more change into law than arguably any president since Lyndon Johnson. Since 2010 and the Republican takeover of Congress, he’s gotten almost nothing done. It’s not Obama’s energy that has flagged, or his agenda that’s run dry. It’s Congress’s interest in that agenda.
If Millennials are learning that lesson — if they’re figuring out that the presidency is oversold in American politics — then that’s a very good thing. The first step towards changing American politics is knowing who actually has the power to change American politics.
Obama may have signed “more change into law” than other Presidents, but the reason that millennials are disenchanted with him is that it wasn’t the change that they elected him to perform. He continued, and indeed intensified, the wars that he campaigned against. He pivoted into an extraordinary defender of the abuses of the national surveillance state, including reversing his opinion on specific campaign issues like warrantless wiretaps. He assassinated US citizens and aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers. And he did all of it while presiding over a nasty recession and a painfully slow recovery that has been particularly difficult on the millennials who were his biggest supporters.
We don’t need to reach some convoluted narrative about millennials suddenly remembering their civics classes and waking up to the powerlessness of the US President. And we also don’t need to lie about the incredible — but certainly not autocratic — powers enjoyed by the President. Obama did introduce a dose of realism to millennials, certainly: they learned the crucial truth that politicians lie.
Speaking of losing faith, this kind of naked hackery is why I stopped reading Klein back around 2005, and why I was bemused to hear that he was heading up Vox.com. Klein is smart, and a relatively talented writer, and an interesting policy wonk, which is why I don’t believe that his occasional descents into pure partisan propaganda are anything other than actual dishonesty. His peers have biases and agendas, of course, as does everyone, and I generally like that they’re willing to put forward their articles with their beliefs on the table. Klein, by contrast, seems like he regularly crosses the line from “I have beliefs that I think represent reality and will suggest that my beliefs are in fact true” to “I have an agenda that I will lie in order to advance.”