Posted by: endithinks | July 7, 2008

On Obama and the “middle”

Lately the new piece of categorization that the nay sayers are trying to pin on Obama is his apparent “move to the middle.”  I’ve heard this phrase dozens of times in the lat few weeks with Faux News, CNN and even a few on MSNBC making a claim that Obama is heading towards that Democratic Fallacy known as the middle.

First of all there are goign to be some disagreements between Obama’s views and his supporters’s views.  That is the nature of the Democratic Party.  They do not blindly follow their candidate, but instead think about what would be best for the country as a whole. 

Obama is not moving towards the middle; he is simply refining his message and highlighting things he has already said in the past in a more open way.  During the battle with Clinton he had to contrast as much as possible so that people could make their decisions based on an informed response.  Now he is freer to express his views that he has already held.

Check out the following article.  Very well written.

by Lynette McGrath
In all of the right-wing and left-wing chatter about Obama having shifted his position on a number of issues since he began his campaign for the presidency, I think we’ve lost sight of who Obama is, what his history tells us, and what he himself has told us.

What was clear from the moment of Obama’s speech to the Democratic Convention in Boston in 2004, was that he was ready to lead a new movement that would unite Americans, speak to them all, lessen paralyzing  partisan divisions, negotiate across the aisle-Democrats and Republicans together, and forge a new way of making decisions that would be inclusive.  His legislative history and his comments throughout the primary campaign tell us that he favors a pragmatic compromise system of doing politics.  He also sees himself as an appropriate embodiment of this message, emphasizing the way he himself unifies the diversity of black and white, Ghanian and American, humble origins and personal success. 

 I believe that progressives downplayed  this message of unity and compromise and made Obama into something he never was.  They thought the message of change was about a far-left progressivism that would ride over the right because that’s what they themselves wanted and needed, after years of being battered by the right-wing agenda. But change is not necessarily about revolution. Obama has always been about inclusion, which isn’t possible if only the progressive agenda is pushed.  Now progressives are disappointed that their image is not being acted out.  I remember being with friends during the primary who were talking Obama up as a left-wing progressive and thinking that wasn’t quite what I heard him offering.  Yet I felt happy with his candidacy  because he seemed to me to be talking about the sensible compromise politics I understand from British ways of doing political business.  It’s a method that, when it works,  gets things done to benefit the greatest possible number, but not all, and usually not those on either end of the spectrum.

Obama’s commitment to the idea of unity, of valuing all and including all, is fundamental to his message and goal. He is not a liberal ideologue.  He is a liberal open to compromise.  He is also a sensible, rational, responsible leader who takes care to work out pragmatic solutions to difficult problems.  Unlike George Bush and even Bill Clinton, who packaged his speeches as simply as possible and whose vocabulary count in his public speeches was even less than Reagan’s or either Bush’s, Obama acknowledges and takes account of nuance and the subtleties embedded in complicated issues.“What I don’t do when I’m campaigning is to try to press a lot of hot buttons and use a lot of cheap applause buttons, because I want people to get a sense of how I think about this process,” said Obama. “I think that one of the problems with political speeches is that we all know what folks want to hear. We know who the conventional, stereotypical enemies are on any given issue, and we have a tendency, I think, to play up to that. And I actually think that we’re in this moment in history right now where honesty, admitting complexity is a good thing.”

Psychologists tell us that when people first fall in love they go through a process called cathexis, in which the lover makes the beloved into something he or she wants and needs the other to be.  After a period of time, both lover and beloved begin to see each other as they really are.  This is what is happening with liberal progressives and Obama now.  A relationship reality check is going on.  It is not that Obama is “flip-flopping,” but that liberal progressives are coming to see him for who he is-a grownup, thoughtful, non ideological politician who offers Americans a balanced, inclusive, and cooperative political future.

In his speech to the 2004 convention, Obama said,
“Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America. . . . We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”  And “[W]e are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief, “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s’ keeper,” that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.”

Christopher Wills,6/25/2008 6:00:10 PMBookmark and Share, looking back on Obama’s history in the Illinois legislature, writes that, “As an Illinois legislator, Barack Obama fought to expand aid to the poor-and backed legislation to withhold welfare from parents abusing drugs.  He opposed making it easier to impose the death penalty on gang members, and supported it for people who kill volunteers in community policing programs.  He consistently supported gun control. He also voted to let retired police and military personnel carry concealed weapons.


Just how liberal was he?

In all, Obama’s record from nearly eight years in the Illinois Senate suggests someone who believes strongly that government can make life better for people, whether by offering financial help, banning dangerous guns or providing health care.

But Obama, now the Democratic candidate for president, was no ideologue. He often cooperated with Republican lawmakers, co-sponsoring their legislation and working with them on compromises. “People on both sides of the aisle would find him to be someone who would reach across to find out why people think the way they do,” said William Mahar, a former Republican state senator. “He wouldn’t talk just to people who agreed with him.”On Iraq, from the beginning, Obama has said that we need to be “as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.”  He told George Stephanopolous in a “This Week” interview in May, 2007 that he could support a war-funding bill that includes benchmarks but lacks a timetable for withdrawal.
Obama has emphasized his support for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, but also says his policy would need to accommodate to the ongoing situation in Iraq.
“I think we have some moral and humanitarian responsibilities to the Iraqi people,” says Obama. “And that has to be factored in. I can’t anticipate what Iraq will look like a year from now, because so much depends on how we carry out this phased redeployment and how effective we are when it comes to diplomacy.”

In his health care program, Obama also hews to a workable middle ground.  Rather than mandating universal health coverage and trying probably futilely to mandate coverage for all, he will set up a new, subsidized, government-operated insurance plan for people who aren’t covered by their employers or Medicare.  He acknowledges the difficulty and expense in potentially criminalizing young healthy people who refuse to sign up for health insurance.

His economic policy is also a compromise between the classical economic theories of Keynes and Friedman.  On the whole, he seems to accept a theory that allows the free market system to operate freely as long as it continues to correct itself, but the government will intervene when it fails to do so.  All credit card and mortgage issuers, and other financial services firms, will be forced to disclose all their charges clearly, fully, and in plain language.  Firms that don’t issue 401 K plans for their employees would be required to open a direct deposit retirement account for their workers, with an opt-out clause.  For the first $1000 in savings that an employee contributed, the government would provide a $500 tax credit.

Further reading from Karen McCool:

he has had a long history of working across the aisle (compromise) … here’s a rundown of his bipartisan legislation (oct 06)


  1. Great post. The media is doing a serious injustice to America right now. They keep playing games just to keep their ratings up. In their quest for more advertising dollars, if they ‘sway’ enough people because of their innuendos and incomplete reporting this could be devastating to America. The media is being VERY irresponsible. Read the post at the link below. I think it’s time for us to boycott the media so that they lose revenue and start being responsible once again. They should report on the facts of the issues at hand for both candidates. They should stop telling their personal opinions for good or bad.


  2. Obama is a charismatic guy which his capability is yet to show in full, but we know that he has his own thinking and ideas on how to make thing right.

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