But as a counterpoint to the inauguration hoopla, here are three reasons why Obama might not be remembered as the kind of “liberal Reagan” that he seems to be today.

1) Obama’s political victories are clearer than his policy accomplishments. The question of whether Obamacare will be implemented has been answered; the question of whether it can survive its own design flaws has not. The question of whether Obamanomics would be rejected by the public in the short run has been answered; the question of whether it can produce the kind of longer-run growth that previous generations of Americans took for granted has not. (The sluggish economic recovery barely figured into the second inaugural, and the president talked more about green industrial policy than about the plight of the unemployed.) The question of whether Obama’s foreign policy would avoid major disasters and be an asset in his re-election bid has been answered; the question of whether his navigation of the Arab Spring and his attempts to contain Iran will look skillful in hindsight has not. Obama plainly turned the social issues to his party’s advantage last year (with a major assist from Todd Akin). But a tentative and ambiguous pro-choice trend in public opinion after a long period of pro-life gains does not mean that liberals have won the abortion wars, especially given that the main policy shift of the Obama era has been an uptick in state-level abortion restriction. And even on gay marriage, where most observers — myself included — assume that the Obama era will be remembered as genuinely transformational, that transformation has only actually been achieved in nine of the fifty states. …

2) Liberalism, no less than conservatism, is riven by internal contradictions. The Obama majority does indeed reflect the diversity of twenty-first America, just as its enthusiastic boosters claim: It’s the party of Silicon Valley billionaires and immigrants who work at Wal-Mart, of public sector employees and affluent dual-earner professionals, of the secular academy and the black church, of the multiracial Southwest and white New England. But for political parties as well as human societies, diversity is as often a weakness as a strength, and it’s easy enough to imagine scenarios where the Democratic Party of the near-future fractures along lines of race or geography, class or culture.