Popular accounts of American historical development suggest that American politics are fundamentally cyclical, swinging back and forth between periods of reform and retrenchment.

Following this theory — an idea espoused by prominent liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. — the re election of Barack Obama should have been cause not just for short-term exultation at the defeat of Mitt Romney and the far Right, but also sustained excitement that a reform agenda has been given four more years.

In reality, few progressives feel this way. The net result of Obama’s re election is a perpetuation of the status quo in Washington — a grid-locked Congress that has bought hook, line, and sinker into deficit hysteria, thereby all but guaranteeing that the next several years will continue to be marked by high unemployment, austerity, and painful cuts at the local, state, and federal levels. Disturbingly,...

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