I have no disagreement with the substance of Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek piece; only with its theme:
If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan....
It was the continuation of economic growth, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the tax and immigration reforms of 1986 that put Reagan in the top tier of transformational presidents.
Ranking dead presidents--and especially enshrining them in the "top tier of transformational" ones--is always a tricky business, although for tireless Reagan admirers, among whom one counts Sullivan, it's rather easy. The Gipper rules, even if the myth has largely engulfed the reality. But let us not quibble long. My view, which only the years to come will confirm or deny, is simply that Reagan will eventually settle into the middle rankings: history will recognize that the 40th president presided not over the continuation of economic growth, but the beginnings of massive wealth inequality and thus slower growth; that the Soviet Union collapsed of its own weight--our president was essentially a lucky bystander; and that his disastrous tax reforms required agonizing decades to exhaustively scuttle.
My own contention, pace Sullivan, is that if comparisons are desired, then let Obama historically resemble FDR, the conservative founder of modern progressivism. In their pragmatism--in their pursuit of the possible, in their brilliant incrementalism, and thus in their lasting "change"--these two presidents' political philosophies have paralleled closely; also, in part, because of temperament, but additionally because Obama is an acute student of history. He knew what might work before he ever started the job.
Indeed from a vast historical perspective, someday Obama's accomplishments--major healthcare reform and the successful reversal of an otherwise inexorable slide into a Great Depression II and ending DADT and coping with W's bequeathed Middle East headaches among others and in engineering, or at least playing an instrumental part in engineering, the final destruction of the modern Republican Party and thus setting the national stage for a monumental political realignment that could endure for generations--all these could someday be measured, historically, as on par with the fundamental significance of the New Deal.
And he has another whole term to go.