Ultimately as liberals and progressives I think we get stuck in our definition of words. There are some people who define liberalism as a static rather than dynamic concept. But I would put out there that liberalism as a concept is dynamic and does nothing more than reflect the milieu of any given era in civilization.
Let’s take the oft talked about Greatest Liberal of all time FDR. FDR was a great liberal, but he interred Japanese Americans, which isn’t liberal at all. Social Security was a liberal policy, but just for white men when it began. Just saying.
Let’s look at R.M. Nixon for a minute, an arch conservative with fascist tendencies, who committed a political crime, that dude created the EPA and his signed into law NEPA thanks to Scoop Jackson, another flawed liberal in Washington State politics, he supported Vietnam but was a great environmentalist. They usher in an era of deep research into ecological restoration. Nixon reflected his era,because of the pressures around him. That era demanded some action on the environment, which was considered a liberal cause.
Let’s look at t Jimmy Carter for a minute, you define him as a liberal, but under his administration the airlines were deregulated, this is not what we would consider today to be a liberal policy position. Indeed he was reflecting his era, his time. And many of the Carter policies were liberal.
We all know that under Clinton, Welfare was effectively gutted, and that was an indication of what was to come, the deregulation of financial services. People love Clinton now, b/c the economy was so great back in the 90’s and everyone wants to go back to that, but at the time, Clinton’s policies were just reflecting the era, sometime his policies could be considered quite liberal, The Federal Acquisition and Streamlining Act of 1994, a very liberal policy that expanded the numbers of minority businesses competing for Federal Government contracts. It was a very important micro-economic policy.
Barack Obama is no different from those Presidents, he reflects this era. This returns us to my original statement, but what I am describing is our dynamic concept of liberalism which has changed over time. His agenda is mostly liberal. But not everything his administration proposes or accomplishes is liberal. I think that is because as people we too are more complex than that, we are not one dimensional and we are not static beings. We evolve and change as do our expectations of civilization. This is just another step up in our continuing growth as humans. As we continue to evolve as people, our government will evolve with us.