Ross Douthat makes a few good points and a few not-so-good ones in his column today, but this paragraph just confuses me. He’s talking about Barack Obama’s agenda of the past two years:
Legislative maneuverings — the buy-offs and back-room deals, the inevitable coziness with lobbyists — exposed the weakness of modern liberal governance: it tends to be stymied and corrupted by the very welfare state that it’s seeking to expand. Many of Barack Obama’s supporters expected him to be another Franklin Roosevelt, energetically experimenting with one program after another. But Roosevelt didn’t have to cope with the web of interest groups that’s gradually woven itself around the government his New Deal helped build. And while Obama twisted in these webs, the public gradually decided that it liked bigger government more in theory than in practice.
Interest groups spawned by the New Deal? The healthcare bill had to cope with a bunch of business lobbies, including the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the AMA. The finance reform bill had to cope with Wall Street. Cap-and-trade had to cope with electric utilities and geographical rivalries. Immigration reform, which never even got off the ground, had to deal with xenophobia on one side and business interests that wanted a continued flow of cheap labor on the other. And on all of these issues, Obama had to deal with a monolithic Republican Party that filibustered his every move, refused to bargain in anything close to good faith, and voted nearly unanimously against everything he proposed.
I’m just not seeing the shadow of New Deal interest groups there. These seem like the same old interest groups that FDR and every other progressive have had to fight since forever. I think you could make a case that AARP fits Douthat’s description, but that’s about it. What am I missing here?