1. Assuming he doesn’t pull an about-face on anything, what sort of changes will Obama really be able to effect?
Not a lot. Best case scenario is that he isn’t able to do much, the economy recovers on its own, and he claims credit for it.
Obama, as has been pointed out repeatedly, has no executive experience, and has no significant national legislation to his credit. So he has shown no particular ability to shepherd legislation thru the process. The only significant legislation that has passed in the last two years are things that are so stupid that Democrats and Republicans agree on them. Shit like the stimulus package, for instance. Obama has carefully avoided any serious discussion on the pending entitlement crunch. He has no idea how to deal with it, and he is going to spend all that he expects to get (and more) from the tax hikes.
On energy, he may waste more money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need, like ethanol subsidies. He will have to confront the radical greenies in his party if he is serious about nuclear power, so that will probably languish in committee from now to Kingdom Come.
On foreign policy, as Biden and I said, he will be tested early. Iran or North Korea or someone like that will try something, and see how he reacts. He may be dumb enough to squander the successes of the surge in Iraq, and if things go to hell and Iran invades, then all the blaming Bush in the world isn’t going to fix anything. And the Democrats won’t have something like Watergate to distract the public, like they did with Viet Nam.
Like I say, the best we can hope for is that he is ineffectual and lucky. Of course, he could turn out to be a diamond in the rough, and a great President. But he won’t.
2. With our system of checks and balances, why wasn’t the Democratic congress of the last two years able to effect some of the positive changes that you expect from Democratic leaders? Or did they?
They did. This is the best they can do. They aren’t going to do any better under Obama than they would under McCain (or Bush). They controlled Congress for the last two years, and all they did was jack up the deficit. If they were going to do anything about the credit crunch, they would have, but didn’t. If they are going to do anything about future crises, they would be doing it now. But they aren’t.
Obama’s got a shot at appointing a Justice or two. (Or maybe he will fuck up so bad that Republicans regain control in 2010. But I suspect the conservatives on the Court will hang in there as long as they can, if they think some liberal ninny is going to take their seat.
3. Do the Democrats in congress bear any responsibility for the current economic crisis? If so, how are Obama’s policies going to turn the tide?
Of course they do. And they won’t, respectively. The Dems were the ones pushing for mortgages for poor credit risks. Bush wanted to regulate the industry like Reagan wanted to re-regulate the S&L industry. Jim Wright stopped Reagan; the Dems stopped Bush. (Of course he didn’t push very hard.)
4. Is this really the most important election in your lifetime (phrase that makes me :rolleyes: ), or are we, like I said before, just choosing between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich?
No. It’s just unusual in that it appears a liberal Democrat, and not a Southerner, is going to win.
But the Democrats are going to control all three branches of the federal government, and possibly by filibuster-proof margins. Whatever happens for the next two years is their fault.