Is Obama a Conservative?

George Packer’s column about President Obama in today’s New Yorker may have an unfortunate lede—“Another week, another earthquake”—but it’s well worth the read. After listing off Obama’s accomplishments so far, Packer notes “Well short of Obama’s first hundred days, the dominant characteristic of his Presidency is clear: activist government, on every front. … What underlies so many of Obama’s decisions is an attachment to the institutions that hold up American society, a desire to make them function better rather than remake them altogether.” Packer notes an irony about Obamaism: “It’s also a pretty good description of what used to pass for conservatism—a sense that social relations and institutions are fragile things, and that, while government can’t create wealth or impose equality, at moments like this it has to establish a new equilibrium between individuals and huge economic forces, so that society doesn’t crumble.”