Monday, July 7, 2008

Swing for the fences!

Over-reach is good. Eyes bigger than your stomach are good. Cat-killing curiousity is great. Knocking a bunch of dingers out of the park is fantastic.

As has often been the case of late, my thoughts turn to the November election. While others have found cause for concern I have rejoiced. Senator Obama is plotting a course that substantively mirrors what I expected of him last year. He is demonstrating a pragmatism and frankly ideological consistency that many folks are missing. Far too many have accused him of peddling this "New Politics" and then delivering a centrist platform. They claim that this is some kind of "bait and switch." I find this notion hilarious.

Swinging for the fences does not require that you do something completely new and unexpected. Rather it means that you put as much power and heart into your swing as you've got. Either go big or go home. A lot of my erstwhile Liberal colleagues get that sentiment generally, but they sadly miss the point with Senator Obama. Some of my friends who supported Senator Hillary Clinton have accused him (and us) of pushing her aside for her willingness to work from the center only to have Senator Obama do the same. This assessment is fair, but it only works at first blush.

Senator Obama's position on nearly every controversial issue of late has been fairly consistent for the last few years. He has said repeatedly that he opposed the Iraq War at the start and intends to end it, but the means and method of withdrawal would be fixed around the actual facts of the matter. If our flag officers think we should slow the withdrawal or focus our ever-diminishing resources in a particular area, he'd probably do it. I think this is a sensible position, and its one that cost him some political points earlier on. I think a lot of folks missed the fact that his sixteen month timeline for withdrawal was aspirational.

If one looks at the other so-called "flip-flops" they will see that, with the exception of the retroactive civil immunity for the telecommunications companies, Senator Obama's substantive position has moved very little. Instead, two things have happened. First he has begun to emphasize those aspects of his positions that have an appeal to the center or indeed even the right. Second the Netroots folks have begun to realize that the Democratic nominee isn't looking to kick in Republican teeth. There's a bit of buyer's remorse going on here.

I expected that there would be some significant cognitive dissonance on the part of the Daily Kos and MoveOn types after Barack Obama clinched the nomination. The better angels of his nature tend to win out politically. He doesn't go for a knock out punch to win his political battles. He's more subtle, and more conciliatory. If you haven't before, I suggest you read up on his time running the Harvard Law Review. The Politico had a good piece on it ( In that article they make it plain that Obama secured the presidency of Harvard Law Review by assuring the conservative members that he would treat them fairly. He delivered on that promise. I recommend this article to anyone who has questions about Obama's disposition towards conservatives.

Why do I bring this up? Obama isn't looking to obliterate the other side. He's looking to defeat them, yes, but not humiliate them. It's pretty plain to me that he sees that conservatives generate some good ideas and serve as a useful brake on our liberal excesses in taxing and spending. Compromise isn't only useful as a tool for accomplishing a part of what you want in the face of opposition. Compromise can often moderate an overly-pure position that would be impractical if implemented.

I'm unabashedly liberal, but I do not think that liberals have a monopoly on truth or good policy. I make it a point to listen to my conservative friends and colleagues because I can learn from them (and hopefully vice versa). Reason and discourse have carried me this far and I don't intend to discard them anytime soon. I think I saw this in Senator Obama fairly early on and nothing he has done to this point disabuses me of that notion.

The Left will never really succeed in driving policy if it ignores the Right or its concerns. Our system of government is too respectful of minority rights for that to happen short of a seismic electoral shift. Barack Obama will take progressive ideas further because he's willing to make sane compromises that may lead to a better bill because of the involvement of the other side.

Good legislation is a synthesis.

My Zimbio
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