Clip File: It's not just about the president. His successes and failures are tests of the progressive infrastructure.

"No doubt the president is one of the most compelling figures in American political history, perhaps more interesting as a person than any occupant of the White House since his moral opposite, Richard Nixon. His combination of political skill, intellect, discipline, confidence, and command of language is unprecedented, and his theory of politics, which brought with it the first actual Democratic electoral majority since 1976, may have changed the parameters of political possibility. It's hard to take your eyes off that phenomenon.

"But even world-historical figures color within lines that they do not draw themselves. What presidents, governors, or even legislators are willing and able to do is defined by forces and efforts outside of themselves. And for progressive politicians, those factors include the condition and power of the progressive coalition and its organizations -- its ability to generate and refine ideas, as well as its organizational capacity to bring pressure to bear on the political system. Every success or failure can be seen as a measure of the strength or weakness of that infrastructure."

The rest of the story: Machinery of Progress by Mark Schmitt (The American Prospect January/February 2010

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