Dave’s post earlier today got me thinking, because it captures a series of ideas that are bouncing around the blogosphere: that Obama, for one reason or another, is getting played by the Republican minority in Congress; that he’s squandering his mandate for real and lasting change because of his rhetoric of bipartisanship; and that, in the end, the Obama administration may be captive to special interests and plutocrats. Let me note that, to some extent at least, I share these concerns.

But I’m equally worried that some people — not Dave, mind you — believe Obama should recapitulate the entire New Deal in one stimulus bill. Actually, that would be so totally awesome I can’t believe it. President Obama should crisscross the country atop a magical redistributionist ponycorn that will crap infrastructure projects here, there, and everywhere, while rejiggering the tax code by whinnying its sweet ponycorn breath on recalcitrant legislators. The president’s and his ponycorn’s every move should be documented by a team of the nation’s finest photographers and memorialized by collectives of state-sponsored folk singers and playwrights. And in their wake should come a phalanx of America’s youth, scattering seeds for grand forests that will provide shade for future generations of Democratic voters. Also, beer should be free. Sadly, I’m pretty sure none of that’s going to happen.

Being slightly more serious for a moment, I recently read this excellent — and very short — introduction to the Great Depression and the New Deal. (I mean, it’s not as good as Amity Shlaes’s masterpiece, but it’s not really fair to hold Eric to such a high standard, right?) And it seems that FDR did save the banks pretty much overnight. But from there, implementing the New Deal programs was a long, hard slog, a matter of incremental progress based on trial-and-error. Also, when FDR took office, the Depression was years old and the banks were already stone dead.

None of which is to say the current stimulus package couldn’t be better. Like the next coastal elite, I rely on Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong for their considered opinions of all things économique. And they seem to think that there are problems of size, scope, and tactics when it comes to Obama’s stimulus package (That sounds like pr0n, doesn’t it? Well then this pdf should almost certainly be labeled nsfw.).

Instead, my point is that this likely isn’t the last piece of legislation that will come out of the Obama administration. And given that, it seems possible that the real issue isn’t that Obama and the Democratic majority are getting slapped around by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, nor that the president has hamstrung himself in service of bipartisanship. Maybe what’s really happening is that during the campaign Obama created a set of unrealistic expectations among his constituents — including me — by talking so often about change. Change, it turns out, takes time in our political system. Remember, too, that Obama always plays a long game. His strategies, then, require even more time to unspool. So although in this case time may be short because so many people are hurting, perhaps we could give him his standard 100 days before we rush to judgment. And in the meantime, it might make sense to read up on the New Deal. It turns out that it wasn’t built in a day.

Very important update: Ponycorn. And not.