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.

Crossposted from my new blog, Seldon's Gambit:
http://reaper0bot0.blogspot.com/2008/07/ swing-for-fences.html

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.  I think they assumed that New Politics is some purist progressive agenda that succeeds because of some kind of messianic and nigh-perfect messenger.  It isn't.  It's more pragmatic, and that pragmatism will carry us further than any overblown orthodoxy ever could.

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. He's said that "we should be as careful in getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting into Iraq." That pretty plainly means we should be graceful in our exit. I don't think he's suggested anything more than that in the last few weeks. I'm pretty sure a lot of folks saw what they wanted to see in him earlier and are beginning to realize it's more complicated than they thought. And I think they're misinterpreting what he's now saying. Some flexibility in the way we leave Iraq is not the same thing as staying and occupying the place indefinitely.

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 (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/060 8/11257.html). 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. We'll knock the ball out of the park if we remember that.

Tags: left, obama, Right (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

Tips?

For the dingers?

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-07 08:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Swing for the Fences!

Great title..

The past month has been troublesome for Obama as he attempts to reach the swing voters while alienating the far left of the party, his base.

As he swings for the fences (swing voters), he is striking out at the plate with extremists...

JMHO...

by Liberty 2008-07-07 08:48PM | 0 recs
But you are missing the point

Obama dominated Clinton among liberals in the primaries; one likely reason is that they thought he was more liberal than her.  Even accepting that the positions that he has articulated are not "shifts," I don't recall him ever revealing these viewpoints to the liberals that put him over the top.  Liberals may have voted differently had such viewpoints been disclosed more clearly during the primary.

There's a distinction that you are missing between "stylistically" moderate and "substantively" moderate.  I always thought Obama was a liberal "substantively" but that his "new politics" crap was for a way to portray himself as a moderate "stylistically."  In other words, I didn't think the new politics actually meant he'd meet the Pubs halfway on some issues but rather, the new politics meant that he would tell to the Pubs that he understands their point of view but rejects their view completely nonetheless.

by Blazers Edge 2008-07-07 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: But you are missing the point

Obama dominated Clinton among liberals in the primaries; one likely reason is that they thought he was more liberal than her.

I think this is more likely due to her war vote than any other single issue.  

If those same voters are uncertain about him now, then I honestly don't believe they were paying attention.  His war position is the same.  Most of the other alleged flip-flops are consistent with statements made in debates, interviews, or his books.  And his general notion, highlighted in this diary, of willingness to work with anyone who wants a seat at the table --- even Republicans or conservatives --- was prominent in his campaign...or at least it was to me.

by freedom78 2008-07-07 09:36PM | 0 recs
Re: But you are missing the point

An interesting view of home plate from the outfield:


When close observers of the 2008 election in the United States speak of a very possible electoral realignment come November, it's really a consequence of the greater convergence between libertarian-thinking Americans on both the right and the left. The moves that Obama is making toward the general election that confound and sometimes anger parts of the traditional Democratic or activist base are, in reality, part of the wooing process toward what may be the largest "swing vote" group of all: Independents, Republicans, new voters, and, yes, alienated Americans who haven't voted in years or decades, whose libertarian tendencies reach beyond a narrow economic focus into all aspects of government intrusion into the daily lives of the people.

[...]

What many mistakenly refer to as "moving toward the center" or "moving toward the right" is often a case of their sudden realization of positions that the Democratic nominee has consistently held all along. It was those people's lack of investigative rigor that led them to presume that this was your father's Democratic nominee. You don't see much of that sort of Chicken Little feathers-flying pillow-fighting on the libertarian left, though, because it never suffered from the illusion that Democratic Party orthodoxy could bring solutions to many of the worst problems in the country, many in fact greatly exacerbated by the last Democratic administration in the US.

[...]

When we see a nominee that, from the beginning of his campaign, has broken with Democratic Party orthodoxy, we're not immediately plagued by knee-jerk reactions, nor do we howl that he's supposedly moving right. Nor have we learned to expect that anyone in politics would march lockstep with our views. We've never been in a position to imagine purity tests (and the whole concept of purity testing is anathema to free thinkers, anyway). I think I probably speak for many that are just simply relieved that the mold of the tired old media-fed and false definitions of right and left, as they pertain to US politics, has been broken, and amidst its rubble there's a new space for us to stand upon, too.

Al Giordano - The Libertarian Heart of the "Swing Vote" The Field 7 Jul 08

Al is suggesting a number of valid arguments in this piece, which is well worth a read, not least of which that the liberals that put him over the top were not paying particularly close attention to public policy positions and alignments which Obama has been attempting to make clear for some time.  And that furthermore it's probably all for the best.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-07 09:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Swing for the Fences!

Senator Obama's position on nearly every controversial issue of late has been fairly consistent for the last few years

I stopped reading right there.

by rankles 2008-07-08 01:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Swing for the Fences!

Then off with you!

Shoo, fly!

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-08 04:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Swing for the Fences!

The infrastructure isn't set up to properly handle a candidate like Obama. The media want 1-10 seconds long verbal or physical pratfalls to feed the machine. Discussion sites both Left and Right want ideologically pure pronouncements from their own candidate which hopefully also irritate the other side. The majority of the world fits between Kos and the Freepers, oblivious to the war going on between and among the various factions. They just want someone who is competent in the white house for a change. But that isn't the most important thing going on in their lives.

Obama, as has been explained thoroughly, has been consistent and continues to demonstrate that he is listening to experts, and willing to include good ideas in the pursuit of solutions to problems. This is the competence we desperately need.

Whether he wins with dingers or whether he plays small ball and ekes out a win, we need a different W this time, and I don't care how he manages the game if he just wins it. We need a Win.

by QTG 2008-07-08 05:24AM | 0 recs

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