Monday, June 30, 2008

I’m Barack Obama, the “whatever you want me to be” candidate

Posting at the PoliGazette this morning, Michael van der Galien, editor-in-chief, takes a look at the phenomenon of the one-time darling of the left-wing, Barack Obama, twisting and turning in the early days of the general election to appeal to as many voters as possible.

Van der Galien begins:

“There’s a fascinating debate going on in the liberal blogosphere about the ideology of Barack Obama. Early on in the primaries most liberal bloggers embraced Obama, believing him to be a truly progressive candidate who could actually win a national election. Quite some of them thought highly of John Edwards but, they feared, he can’t win. Hillary Clinton was considered to be a politician like her husband; much more of a centrist and realist than a progressive idealist.

“But Obama, they thought, was different.

“Sure he may talk about unity, etc., but the change he talked about, they thought, was progressive. The hope was progressive. His entire agenda was progressive.

“So they supported him in big numbers. They helped him win the nomination, and went after his Democratic opponents with a passion normally reserved for Republicans.”

Now comes the Left’s abrupt disillusionment:

“But then, at the very moment he won the nomination, Obama started to change his rhetoric. Suddenly he apologized for using too strong words to describe policies most progressives disagreed with. He backpedaled on NAFTA. He suddenly supported a bill that grants immunity to telecom providers while, only a couple of months ago, he said he would not.”

And the pundits begin to ask questions:

“The result: both Glenn Greenwald and Chris Bowers are wondering whether Obama’s shift to the center is an indication that he may not be as progressive as many thought, or whether he’s simply doing it for pragmatical reasons. Many Democratic strategists, Greenwald explains, believe that a Democrat cannot win if he run as a true progressive; no, he has to shift to the center (Greenwald disagrees with that theory). So, it could very well be that Obama is a progressive at heart, who’s simply lying to moderate voters right now, hoping they will vote for him if they believe him to be one of them, just like progressives believe he’s one of them as well.

“Chris Bowers deals with that view in quite an intelligent manner; there comes a time when you’ve got to take people at their word. Obama has said in the past, and is repeating it nowadays, that he’s not a progressive, but a moderate. A pragmatist. Progressive activists can assume he’s lying, because he wants to win, but they can also start taking Obama at his word; if he’s truly a moderate, well, then progressive activists can expect less ‘progressive change’ from him than they hope(d).”

An interesting debate?

“It’s an interesting debate, but it all boils down to one simple observation I made months ago; Obama will have to disappoint millions of people. He bragged in the past about him being a white sheet, upon which people write whatever they believe. They project themselves on Obama, which is something Obama considers to be a strength. And it is.

“But he seems to have forgotten that it is also a weakness. When you’re a ‘whatever you want me to be’ candidate, people are bound to be disappointed. Why? Because he can’t be all things to everyone once elected. He will have to favor specific policies, he will have to implement specific plans. This means that either moderates or liberals are going to be disappointed.”

The remaining question:

“The only question left right now is how Obama will rule? Like Bill Clinton… or like a progressive version of Ronald Reagan? As Paul Krugman points out, Obama’s rhetoric sounds a whole lot like Clinton’s back in 1992. He’s almost the same kind of candidate. Many progressives hoped that Clinton would be a progressive Reagan but, instead, he ruled like a centrist (pretty much).

“At this moment, I think it’s too early to tell. Obama has a liberal record, a very liberal record even, but he often presents himself as a moderate. But he can’t be both.”

In the meantime, let the debate continue:

“We’ll find out what he is if he wins. Until that time; expect liberals and moderates who support Obama to thoroughly and passionately debate about this subject.”

And as long as we’re engaging in debate, Barack Obama is only the “presumptive” nominee until the delegates have voted. Sign on with the Denver Group in its efforts to make sure that Hillary Clinton’s name is on the ballot August 27 at the Democratic convention. Need I remind you that Hillary is the better qualified candidate?

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