Friday, February 01, 2008

The Progressive case for Obama


While their positions are not that far apart, except for a few recent issues Barack Obama is better than Hillary Clinton. He was better on the war, better on the bankruptcy bill and has a long history of progressive activism. This makes his recent nice sounding noises about Reagan, his concern about "saving" Social Security when it doesn't need saving, his more conservative health care reform package, his urging an expansion of trade agreements, etc., look more like politically motivated tactical moves toward the center. He is courting moderates and even conservatives and made at least one conquest in Andrew Sullivan.

The Nation has a good article on why liberals and progressives should support Obama over Clinton. Christopher Hayes believes it is not even close. He believes Obama is very liberal but is reaching out to moderates and conservatives in a new unifying way. As an example of Obama's reaching out:
I've learned in my life that you can stand firm in your principles while still reaching out to those who might not always agree with you. And although the Republican operatives in Washington might not be interested in hearing what we have to say, I think Republican and independent voters outside of Washington are. That's the once-in-a-generation opportunity we have in this election.

Obama makes a distinction between bad-faith, implacable enemies (lobbyists, entrenched interests, "operatives") and good-faith ideological opponents (Republicans, independents and conservatives of good conscience). He wants to court the latter and use their support to vanquish the former. This may be improbable, but it crucially allows former Republicans (Obama Republicans?) to cross over without guilt or self-loathing. They are not asked to renounce, only to join....

Whoever is elected in November, progressives will probably find themselves feeling frustrated. Ultimately though, the future judgments and actions of the candidates are unknowable, obscured behind time's cloak. Who knew that the Bill Clinton of 1992 who campaigned with Nelson Mandela would later threaten to sanction South Africa when it passed a law allowing the production of low-cost generic AIDS drugs for its suffering population--or that the George W. Bush of 2000, an amiable "centrist" whose thin foreign-policy views shaded toward isolationism, would go on to become a self-justifying, delusional and messianic instrument of global war? In this sense, Bill Clinton is right: voting for and electing Barack Obama is a "roll of a dice." All elections are. But the candidacy of Barack Obama represents by far the left's best chance to, in Buchanan's immortal phrasing, take back the bigger half of the country. It's a chance we can't pass up.
I believe just after Super Duper Tuesday I will make up my mind between the three candidates. (It is still possible to vote for and caucus for Edwards even with him not campaigning.) I am now leaning more for rooting for Obama on Tuesday. It is Hillary's toughness in adversity which makes the choice difficult for me.

Other progressives like Amanda are moving Hillary's way. I think it is Red State, or at least Red Neighborhood, Edwards supporters who may now go to Hillary.

Obama seems to have won the debate, and on Iraq, but I didn't see it. A big round-up at The Moderate Voice.

UPDATE - The National Journal, after manipulating its rating four years ago to make Sen. Kerry the most liberal Senator, has done it again. They have changed their rating system to make Obama the most liberal senator. What a joke.


1 comment:

rjnagle said...

I don't know how Hillary voted on bankruptcy reform the most recent go around, but I remember reading in a book (probably Robert Reich's book) about how Hillary championed bankruptcy reform (the good kind) in the mid 1990s. That was one of her main pet issues. It was a big issue for her, and she pushed her husband to engage in the issue. Maybe Wall Street bankers had some effect on her since then,