Barack Obama still occupies the White House for another 18 months, but already he can claim to be a consequential president. Broadly speaking, he has moved the political centre in the United States to the left, much as Ronald Reagan shifted it to the right three decades ago.
When Obama set out his transformational agenda in February 2009, leading conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called it “the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a US president”. Obama delivered.
During his first term, Obama restructured the financial sector and other industries, passed a near $US1 trillion stimulus (the largest spending bill in US history), bailed out the automobile industry, enacted the first income tax increase in nearly two decades, regulated coal-fired power plants to limit carbon emissions and implemented a national health-care program that reaffirms the widely held western belief that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.