Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barack Obama in SC

May be one of his best addresses yet:

Damn, that man can speak! But what I love about Barack Obama is that he never sheds his commitment to progressive ideas and policies. He makes no apologies for his liberalism. In fact, he makes liberal ideas something that is appealing across all ideological lines. What he represents to me is a leader whose appeal to unity is not to moderate his liberal policy ideas to attract conservatives, but rather convince conservatives that their hopes and goals are well-served by liberalism. He is not convincing to conservatives because he approaches them in terms of ideology, but rather because he can convince them to approach him in terms of ideology. And if anyone doubts his progressivism because they think that anyone who appeals across ideological lines simply can't be really progressive, I would encourage you to check out his policies. He, in fact, may be the most progressive of the three front runners. He has been consistently opposeed to the Iraq War from the beginning. He doesn't just give lip service to ending the demonizing of gays and lesbians, he has specific policies to end it. He doesn't just say that he's against the entrenched powerbrokers within the DC Beltway, he actually has conditioned his campaign to minimize the influence of such powerbrokers. Check out his record. It is solidly and consistenly progressive. Check out his policy proposals. They are detailed (even wonkish), but clearly progressive and liberal. All in the best meaning of progressivisim and liberalism, which is a meaning that believes that we all of us are progressives and liberals -- regardless of party identification. This was a big win for Obama. The magnitude of the difference is striking and just makes it all the more clear that he is a viable candidate. Example: Obama's vote count in SC was more than what McCain and Huckabee, the GOP's top two finishers in SC, combined were able to muster. (H/T: Andrew Sullivan)

Obama, 2008!


Eric said...

"Damn, that man can speak!"

He sure can. I wish libertarians or conservatives could muster up a candidate with half of Obama's oratory skill.

"he never sheds his commitment to progressive ideas and policies. He makes no apologies for his liberalism."

It's hard not to admire somebody who is committed to their principals. However, I'd also argue that while Obama never runs away from his liberalness, his speeches are not ideological in nature. In fact, that is one of the things that I don't particularly like about Obama: He spends a great deal of time talking about "change", but in his speeches he is very lean on the details. In the 15 minute speech you just posted (which you qualify as "one of his best addresses yet") he doesn't make a single policy reference.

Granted, anyone who is interested in a candidate has the responsibility to research their stance on the issues, and here you are correct, Obama is probably the most "progressive" candidate in serious contention for the Democratic nomination. The thing is, you wouldn't know it from listening to him speak. He certainly doesn't sound more liberal than John "Two Americas" Edwards or Hillary "We're Going To Take Things Away From You" Clinton.

"In fact, he makes liberal ideas something that is appealing across all ideological lines."

I just disagree with you here. I believe Obama will appeal to a large swath of moderate and independant voters whose votes aren't largely ideological in nature, and to those who are just sick of the (admittedly lame) Republican leadershp. But to ideologically-minded conservatives and libertarians, the more they learn about Obama's policies, the less likely they are to vote for him.

I'm sure I won't be the only Republican in November pulling the lever for a guy I can't stand (Romney or McCain) over a guy I genuinely like but just disagree with in a fundamental way (Obama).

However, I've got to admit the way it's shaping up, I won't be too enthusiastic about the political landscape even if "my" guy wins. Our guys are the opposite of Obama: their speech would have one believing they are much more ideologically pure than they actually are.

Huck said...

Interesting points, Eric. I do believe that Obama's speeches at such moments tend to be sweeping about the broad themes that would define his presidency and short on the specific policy details. But in this regard, he's no different than any candidate.

So I would agree with you up to a point. However, I don't think his speeches are devoid of specifics that promote his progressive ideology. One can tell from listening to him that he's supportive of a kind of government-led health care reform initiative. I think it's pretty clear, even in his grand speeches, that his position on the Iraq war is to begin the process of bringing the troops home.

Frankly, I think many people get so caught up in the minutiae of ideology that they fail to see that the the difference between liberal Democrats and Republican conservatives is generally just one of degree. Democrats are not Socialists like some conservatives tend to frame them. And Republicans are not Fascist reactionaries like some liberals tend to frame them. On the essentials: a belief in individual initiative, capitalism, and personal freedoms, liberal and conservative America are just not that far apart. We sometimes think we are. But we're really not. And I think most Americans, deep down, know this. Sensible conservatives know that liberals are not going to lead a Che-inspired revolutionary movement. Sensible liberals know that conservatives aren't going to be subjecting dissenters to waterboarding in secret detention facilities. Sensible Conservatives know that liberals will never cross a certain line when it comes to "confiscating" wealth and property (i.e. taxes); and sensible liberals know that Conservatives will support the use of government resource and wealth redistribution in support of some public good. The differences are in the details of implementation, which are things to contend over, but they're not things that make a liberal candidate like Obama anathema to a conservative's vote.

Put it this way, if I may: I believe that you may not be too thrilled about Obama as President because of his liberalism; but I don't imagine you'd be too exorcised about his liberalism if he truly leads and listens, even to opposing viewpoints.

Huck said...

Also, Eric, you speak of Obama's lack of ideology in his speeches as a bad thing. I don't see it that way. Sure, he's got an ideology that will drive him. But the fact that he doesn't let it control him, like Edwards does, for instance, is a plus in my book. It makes him out to be a leader and not a partisan ideologue. And it indicates to me that Obama believes that America is not just one ideology, but many, and that a President should acknowledge this as a leader of the country and not just of a Party.

Obama represents the end of this Rovian/Clintonian approach to politics. And that's a good thing.

Eric said...

I guess I see a much wider divide in the competing ideologies than you. You say the differences are in the details of implementation, but that statement leaves a whole lot of ground uncovered. Everybody is against theft. You can combat theft by putting thieves in jail. You can also combat it by subjecting thieves to hours of torture and then chopping their hands off. The difference between these two solutions is only a detail of implementation, but what a huge detail!

Likewise, a person who sees virtue in a universal healthcare system has a different set of ethical guidelines than a person who thinks such a system is more unjust than the problem it attempts to solve. The chasm between the two may not be as wide as the one I mentioned regarding theft, but it is just as insurmountable. Somebody either has to be forced to go along with the opposing position, or they have to be convinced that their values are wrong.

I still don't see where Obama is more likely than any other Democrat to convince conservatives that they are wrong on issues such as this.

Huck said...

I don't think Obama will convince conservatives that they are wrong, but rather that there may be something to his liberalism worthy of a second look. An honest look. And not something to dismiss out of hand as pure partisan drivel. That liberalism is not a dirty word and that, yes, they may understand how some find virtue in liberal solutions.

I think you also know quite well what I mean by "details of implementation" and what I say when I claim liberals and conservatives are not that signifincatly different in their disagreements over these details. Neither conservatives nor liberals would tolerate punishment of a crime by chopping off hands. Also, neither conservatives nor liberals would want to remove choice completely from healthcare. Even if this country were to follow the liberal prescription of universal healthcare, there is absolutely no way that any conservative can honestly say that any liberal prescription precludes the ability of an individual to "opt out" of such a plan and go his own way within the private healh care market.

99% of all those in our country abide by the values and norms that shape our political culture of individualism, choice, democracy and freedom. 99% of all those in our country value such institutions as family and respect for the basic rights of the individual. 99% of all those in our country believe in community and peaceful coexistence within a system of accepted laws and even a code of basic moral principles.

People live through multiple administrations and ideological positions expressed in the national leadership of our governing authority. We do so across generations. We have beers with each other at bars and we watch football games together. Around election time, we might have some heated exchanges over the dinner table or in some public forum, but we go home afterwards and get on with our lives basically respectful of one another's rights and liberties as Americans.

As I said, sure the details mean something to us and are worthy of contention between us, but in the bigger scheme of things they don't really divide us to the point of revolution, or repression, or riots. Obama knows this, which is why he can recognize the importance of Reagan's legacy in this country without demonizing the man but without embracing his ideology either. That is what is appealing about Obama. And it is appealing to many more than just liberal ideologues.

Eric said...

"there may be something to his liberalism worthy of a second look. An honest look. And not something to dismiss out of hand as pure partisan drivel."

I'll grant you, Obama has enough raw personality to entice people to give his views an honest look, but when a conservative or libertarian minded person does so, I don't see how they are suddenly going to find his liberalness endearing. Maybe I don't understand what it is you are trying to impart about Obama.

I believe he can appeal to voters who aren't ideologues, which is a huge swath. Issues voters who lean conservative are going to have lots of problems with him, no matter how personable he is, or how much he listens to them. From a policy standpoint, he is more liberal than HRC, making him the most liberal candidate who stands a chance of becoming POTUS.

I don't understand how you can say he's the most unapologetic progressive thinking candidate, and then say he's not an ideologue. Perhaps he's magnanimous in his disposition, but he still thinks by-and-large conservatives are wrong and liberals right, and would govern accordingly.

There seems to be a common phenomenon among Obama supporters where they accuse anyone who takes fault with his blaring liberalness of being a partisan hack. Well, I'm sorry, but issues are the most important thing to me politically, and there is nothing wrong with defining a candidate according to his position on the issues. In fact, failing to do so is a huge mistake and can lead to disaster... it's how conservatives ended up nominating George W. Bush!

In otherwords, come on Huck, don't piss down my neck and tell me it's raining. ;-)

Huck said...

"I don't understand how you can say he's the most unapologetic progressive thinking candidate, and then say he's not an ideologue."

Being unapologetic about one's position does not make one an ideologue. An ideologue, at least as I understand the term, isn't one who is interested in trying to persuade or convince another of the correctness of his position. An ideologue rams things down other people's throats and then tells them to like it because it's for their own good. Obama is not that kind of person. Neither are you, for that matter, even though you are a committed and principled conservative who can't ever imagine Obama convincing you that this policy positions are worthwhile. There is a difference between principled and being an ideologue, at least when I use the term ideologue. And I think most people understand the term the same way that I do. For example, George Will is not an ideologue, but Rush Limbaugh is. And I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I've never claimed that anyone who disagrees with Obama, whether left or right, is necessarily a partisan hack. I think defining candidates by issues is important. And I take particular pride in pointing out that Obama, when defined by issues, is a liberal. But I also take pride in the fact that his liberalism isn't conditioned by partisanship.

In short, I'm not pissing down your neck and telling you it's raining. That would be partisan hackery and the behavior of an ideologue. It disrespects you and I wouldn't want to do that. No, to keep with your analogy, I'd just try to point out that when it actually is raining down your neck, the rain feels good and refreshing and not uncomfortable and distasteful. :-)

Thanks, as always, for sharing your very insightful thoughts. I am a better liberal because you are a good, principled conservative/libertarian.