In Defense of Senator Obama

A couple of days ago, Senator Obama gave an interview to a Reno newspaper where he said the following:

Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

Some progressive press outlets have jumped all over this as an indicator that Obama is a wolf in sheep's clothing:

  • They say when he mentioned "the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s" he was referring to the civil rights and women's rights movements.
  • They say that Reagan was a union buster, and Obama's statement is tacit approval of such tactics.
  • They say that Reagan did more than any other President to roll back social progress in this country, which means Obama will also head in that direction.
Folks, we are smarter than this. We can't fall into the same decontextualized, gotcha mentality that drives political dialogue 99.9% of the time.

Obama was making an academic statement about an historical moment in this country where the confluence of public attitudes, political message and personal charisma caused our country to move in a fundamentally different direction. He was suggesting that the country is ripe for another such categorical shift, and that he is best positioned (because of his message and his charisma) to make that shift happen.

Obama is not anti-union.

Obama is not pro-corporation.

Obama is not anti civil rights/women's rights.

All three viable Democratic candidates agree what the big picture problems are in this country. What it ultimately comes down to is a question of style.

Do you think we need an activist to tackle our problems head-on?

Do you think we need someone to inspire us, which will give an Administration the political will to address our problems?

Do you think that we can triangulate our way out of our problems?

Tags: clinton, Edwards, obama, Reagan (all tags)

Comments

24 Comments

Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

If Obama aspires to be the Ronald Reagan of the progressive left, more power to him.

by dmc2 2008-01-18 06:29AM | 0 recs
When will he politick like Reagan?
As tyou know, that is the principal critique here. The diarist is addressing a secondary critque. But in a way the diary reveals why the primary critique is so potent. Ronald Reagan would NEVER have praised anything Democratic and would always praise things Republican.
by Big Tent Democrat 2008-01-18 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: When will he politick like Reagan?

It's disappointing that so few will engage with the real argument.  They all want to pretend it's about nothing more than whether Obama is a Reagan-lover.

Even as this diarist types the words that say Reagan's "political message" was a major part of how he shifted the country to the right, he doesn't pause to think that wait, Obama's message is nothing like that.

by Steve M 2008-01-18 06:53AM | 0 recs
Re: When will he politick like Reagan?

Reagan on JFK:


As a leader, as a president, he seemed to have a good hard, unillusioned understanding of man and his political choices. He had written a book as a very young man about why the world slept as Hitler marched on; and he understood the tension between good and evil in the history of man - understood, indeed, that much of the history of man can be seen in the constant working out of that tension. He knew that the United States had adversaries, real adversaries, and they weren't about to be put off by soft reason and good intentions. He tried always to be strong with them, and shrewd. He wanted our defense system to be unsurpassed; he cared that his country would be safe.

He was a patriot who summoned patriotism from the heart of a sated country. It is a matter of pride to me that so many men and women who were inspired by his bracing vision and moved by his call to "ask not ..." serve now in the White House doing the business of government.

I would add that That speech was made 21 years after the end of the Kennedy presidency.  Obama's comments were made 19 years after the end of Reagan's presidency.  

by gobacktotexas 2008-01-18 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: When will he politick like Reagan?

It's unclear to me if you're thinking of this as a pro-Obama or anti-Obama point.

There's no question that JFK will always be popular because of what happened to him, and the conservative movement has been trying to co-opt his legacy for many years.  They praise Democrats like Kennedy, Truman and Roosevelt as "strong on national security," with the implication being that today's Democrats have lost sight of JFK's values.  In other words, they want to ignore JFK's progressive domestic policy altogether, and focus on his "national security toughness" so they can essentially make him into one of them.

If you could show me that Obama is trying to rebrand Reagan as a progressive, to co-opt his legacy into the progressive movement somehow, I think that could be an interesting case.  But all I hear is him buying into the standard hagiography of Reagan as this charismatic uniter.

by Steve M 2008-01-18 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: When will he politick like Reagan?

Whether or not Obama will have the effect that Reagan had on the political landscape is not entirely a function of whether or not he uses the same methodology. I happen to believe that the partisan, ideological methodologies of the right only work for them because the left benefits from reason, rational thought, openness, dialogue, engagement, transparency, etc. So I don't accept that Obama will not be the Reagan of the left because he doesn't push a partisan, ideological approach.

by dmc2 2008-01-18 08:23AM | 0 recs
Obama did not praise

Reagan - he was commenting on the Reagan phenomena.  

by Moonwood 2008-01-18 08:43AM | 0 recs
Accepting all that
it in no way answer the principal critique here - that Obama is NOT running a Ronald Reagan like campaign. I will not rehash the arguments. If you have not seen them, you have not been looking.
by Big Tent Democrat 2008-01-18 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

Thank you.

His comments were lied about and blown totally out of proporsion by the bloggers.

What he said was exactly correct.

by mattmfm 2008-01-18 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

I agree. You know, this whole primary season has really made me wonder about the netroots - I used to think this was a bastion of thinking people, but frankly it has turned out to be the foxnews of the left. Its quite unbelievable.

by alipi 2008-01-18 06:46AM | 0 recs
Amen Matt

I have been saying that for two days - some people just want to demagogue about it

by Moonwood 2008-01-18 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

he was pandering to independents.

I resent taht indepedents get to vote in party primaries in the first place.  Either choose a party or wait until november.

But obama has shown himself to be very conventional as a pol.  Say what you think is necessary to win.

I wonder does he have any limits?

by yellowdem1129 2008-01-18 06:48AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

Good idea, as long you're prepared to win 40-45% of the vote in every Presidential election.

by dmc2 2008-01-18 08:25AM | 0 recs
The attacks on Obama were lies

and they were made by liars.

The Hillary-bots argue falsely and with distortion. Obama was making comments about Reagan's tactics, and the Hillary-bots lied and distorted this into praise for Reagan.

Unfortunately, Hillary attracts very stupid partisans to her side, who simply never tell the truth.

by dataguy 2008-01-18 08:00AM | 0 recs
Reagan's movement was the conservative movement

He laid it out openly on the table more than 20 years before he was elected President:

Shrink government, roll back entitlements, raise defense spending and take on the Soviet Union, limit the power of unions, cut taxes, cut regulation, over turn RvW, and bring back prayer in school, among other things.

Where is Barry Obama's "movement"?  He has not spelled out any "new trajectory", any expert will tell that on policy there is much difference between the big three in the Dem field.

Reagan, and the conservative movement had advocated for the change they wanted to bring since the 60s.  They were crystal clear in what they wanted to accomplish and spoke it in plain english.

Obama has not articulated anyting like a "movement."

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-18 08:39AM | 0 recs
isn't much diff between the big three

my bad

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-18 08:42AM | 0 recs
Your insults

don't further your argument - they tend to make people think you are insecure in your argument.  

by Moonwood 2008-01-18 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Senator Obama

It takes unmitigated gall to complain about triangulation while supporting an alleged Democratic candidate who sings the praises of Ronald Reagan and "fiscal conservatism".

by hwc 2008-01-18 08:41AM | 0 recs
Jeez

You Clinton people are amazing in you inability or refusal to stop trying to tar Obama with the Reagan legacy.  One more time- Obama did not praise Reagan

by Moonwood 2008-01-18 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez

Did he praise fiscal conservatism?

by Steve M 2008-01-18 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez
I don't think he did - but there is nothing wrong with fiscal conservatism.  Are you implying the being responsible with money is bad - if you are you are playing into the reason the Republicans have be able for 40 years to demagogue on that issue.  
The most fiscally responsible president we have had in many years was Clinton.
by Moonwood 2008-01-18 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez

Of course I have no problem with being responsible with money.  That doesn't mean I want to adopt "conservative" as the frame to describe people who are responsible with money!  For the last 30 years, we've seen how terrible conservatives are at running the economy, and yet here we are talking about "fiscal conservatism" like it's a good thing.

This serves as another data point in support of my thesis that for Obama supporters, the definition of progressive is whatever Obama does.  If Obama calls himself a fiscal conservative, then guess what, it's now progressive to be a fiscal conservative!

I sure hope you can see how equating "conservative" with "responsible" is not a smart frame for liberals to buy into.

by Steve M 2008-01-18 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez
For the past forty years - since the great society programs of the sixties we have let the Republicans describe themselves as fiscal conservatives - nonsense - Reagan Bush and Bush have been the biggest spenders ever.
Every time Rove sees Dems fighting over whose calling who a fiscal conservative - like its a bad thing - he is laughing all the way to the bank.
by Moonwood 2008-01-18 12:35PM | 0 recs
Obama

was speaking in third person - can you get that.

by Moonwood 2008-01-18 09:14AM | 0 recs

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