The irony of Barack Obama's presidency in one sentence

Obama pushed more change through the political system than any serious observer expected: he passed health-care reform, as well as the largest stimulus and investment package in American history, and the Dodd-Frank financial reforms (which are working better than most realize). He brought the Iraq war to a close and he actually did find and kill Osama bin Laden. There’s much left on his to-do list, but even in places where he’s failed to pass his legislative remedies into law — like immigrant reform and cap-and-trade — he’s used or is using executive actions to make huge strides.

But he didn’t do all this by fixing American politics. He did all this by breaking American politics even further. Obama hasn’t healed the divisions between Democrats and Republicans. Rather, he’s one of the most polarizing presidents since the advent of polling…

Meanwhile, special interests have as much — and perhaps more — power in Washington than ever. The health-reform bill got done by cutting side deals with pharmaceutical companies and insurers. Dodd-Frank isn’t beloved by banks but it could have gone a lot further. The Obama administration has put virtually no political capital behind major campaign-finance reforms or other ideas that would fundamentally change how Washington works. This, ultimately, speaks to a consequential choice the Obama administration made: it was more important to change the laws than to change the process that makes the laws.

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