Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama's failing, and why it shouldn't matter

It’s funny how a flip-flop can look like a betrayal if you’re on the wrong side of it.

Since he secured the Democratic party’s nomination, Obama has made a well-documented dash to the center. He’s tempered his 16-month pullout from Iraq by saying he’d adjust the timetable as needed, putting him fairly close to McCain’s (also new) position that timetables are irrelevant but that we should be out by 2013. With regard to oil, Obama now supports tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a reversal of his earlier position. He also did a 180 on FISA; ditto public campaign financing, and he’s not even relying on small donations as much anymore.

Now, each of those shifts is arguably the sensible thing, and one could be tempted to just shrug it off and say, “that’s politics for ya.” The problem is that Obama started out with — and still maintains — the notion that he’s somehow a new class of politician, and that’s turned out to be a lie. If we wanted a standard centrist, we had Hillary.

Don’t get me wrong — I’d still pick Obama over McCain. Obama has stayed firm on his tax brackets, which redistribute wealth more to the have-nots. I’d also prefer to see Obama picking the next one or two Supreme Court justices, and Obama’s certainly a more charismatic leader. Electing Obama would be a show of good faith to the rest of the world, although my guess is that it would be a fairly short-lived honeymoon. When it comes down to it, Obama is left-of-center, and McCain is right-of-right-of-center. I guess beggars can’t be choosers.

Obama's rush to the center reminds me of why I’m in favor of states’ rights. America will never elect a truly innovative class of politician as president, because it’s just too big and diverse. If you average out a rainbow, you get a muddy, unexciting color.

America should strive to work a bit more like the European Union: a tight union of separate, independent states. Each state should be responsible for its own moral compass, governmental initiatives and much of its own administration; the federal government should primarily be a coordinating body, distributor of wealth and guardian of a few basic human rights.

The argument might come back that the EU suffers from a disconnect from its citizenry, slow political movement caused by various countries’ hesitations at one point or another, and a general confusion as to the path it should take. I would respond: exactly.

In other words, I would like to see more of an “agree to disagree” attitude within America. Texas and Massachusetts are going to differ on a lot of things, and there’s no reason to let Ohio and Florida decide, every four years, whose opinion gets to rule supreme.


Charles said...

Just wait and see. My prediction in the case of an Obama win is this:
He will be just like any other President with control of both houses of Congress (minus Roosevelt)
He's going to fail utterly and Americans will be so distraught. Both parties will be discredited completely, the Republicans by 8 years of Bush and a Republican Congress and then the Dems from the upcoming failure of Obama's turn at the helm.
Then we'll get another one of the third party candidates we've been getting at these points for the last two centuries.
Except this time, when that third party candidate gets over 10% of the vote, his party will receive federal matching funds--making the survival of his party a real possibility. Imagine if that law had been in effect when Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992...

Yuval Shavit said...

Even if that happened, though, a third party could only rise at the expense of one of the existing parties -- and then it'd eventually fill that gap. A winner-take-all election naturally creates a two-party system, and it doesn't really make much of a difference to me what the parties are called.

I guess I could get excited if that third party wanted to set up that EU-type model, but I don't think that's where most Americans are. At least, not yet. ;-)