His inaugural address aside, the president is not “more liberal” than he was on January 19. He’s still a cautious centrist with a jones for a purely functional view of government. But the one thing he is very good at is forcing the country to look honestly at the politics through which the country has chosen to govern itself. He has forced the issues. He has made the country confront the ignorance, and the lassitude, and the tolerance for the stupid — and, hell, the tolerance for the intolerant — that it has allowed to have pride of place in our political debate simply because it too often served to win elections. This is what the Obama presidency has become. It’s the detox ward of politics. It’s the world’s most elaborate intervention.
– Charlie Pierce, writing for Esquire’s Politics Blog, in reference to the virtue of Obama’s current unexpected popularity.