Monday, February 11, 2008

A Question for Obama Backers

So I'm currently trying to figure out the Obama phenomena. I'm not on board yet. I may well be in the future. I'm just not convinced yet.

Obama has talked a lot about change, and moving past partisian politics, yet he's been firmly entrenched on the left for quite some time. I'm not opposed to that at all, but I'm curious why/how he seems to have so successfully identified himself as non-partisian. I'm also curious about his idealism. Until this campaign, I never had the impression Obama was an idealist. He always seemed to be a pragmatist, determining what his priorities were and what he needed to sacrifice in order to get to them. Again, I'm completely ok with this approach; it's what works in politics.

I just don't get why, despite Obama's history, he's being portrayed as a new kind of politician, an idealist who's largely non-partisian, and who wants to change "politics as usual". In the past, he's been a solid leftist, a pragmatist, and he's relied on traditional politicking to get results.

Personally, I'm ok with that. I think those are good traits. So why are people convinced that Obama is something other than what he's been in the past, and why do they want so badly to be convinced of that?

And if Obama gets elected, really, what would change? I guess that's the big question. I've heard the word, but I want to know the substance.

Pull the blindfold down so your eyes can't see
Now run as fast as you can through this field of trees


patric said...

i'll see if i can answer some of your questions....

first of all, i've never thought of him as a pragmatist. i do think of him as an idealist, but also one who realizes maybe not everything can be realized. that's no reason, of course, not to try. i think it's more of "well, this might not work out, but at least i'm going to try. that's better than not trying" sort of attitude.

as for the non-partisan aspect, i think it has to do that even he is a leftist, i've always had the impression that he doesn't let that stop him from hearing a different point of view. i think non-partisanship has more to do with understanding not only where you are (left or right), but also where others are and why they are there. maybe that's the pragmatic bit coming through again.

i think the big "change" thing for me is the fact that he's not a clinton and he's not a bush. it bothers me that, should hilary win, we'll have had the same two families in power for over 20 years. not only the same two families, but the same scandals and detractions, and problems that each bring with them. i think part of the "non-partisan" feel about obama comes from the fact that there is very much a fear of lots of bickering on both sides with another clinton presidency. already, we've seen bill use hilary's campaign as way of legitimizing his presidency.

if nothing else, at least with obama we'll get some new scandals instead of the same things we've seen for the past 20 years.

Thinking Fool said...

He's a black (or at least biracial) man who lived part of his life overseas. That, in and of itself, is HUGE change for this country. He also isn't hated by half the country. Hillary is. His policies are too liberal, but his uplifting message is inspiring.

Ben said...

It's funny that your analysis of him seems almost contradictory. You say he's a pragmatist, then ask how he can be considered non-partisan. You say he's liberal, but ask how he can be considered an agent of change.

I think patric and TF have already hit the main points, but here goes. He's liberal, certainly, but he is generally willing to talk to the other side and less trigger-happy with the demonizing the other side. (Incidentally, I think it's these same character traits in John McCain that make some Republicans question his conservative credentials.)

He's a pragmatist - as any politician worth his/her salt is - but he gives a good inspirational speech.

So, will he change "politics as usual"? Sadly, over the last 16 or so years, "politics as usual" has come to mean demonizing the other side, bitter partisan sniping, and deadlock.....except, of course, when it's meant huge shifts to the right like, say, war and tax cuts. So a return to traditional politicking and pragmatism, combined with a shift to the left, would - in my book - be a breeze of wonderfully fresh air.

Incidentally, I don't buy the whole "dynasty" argument against Hillary that Patric makes and that I've heard Mike make. She's her own person. Just as Bush, Jr. was a very different President from Bush, Sr (much more of a go-it-alone hawk in foreign policy, for instance), so it's very possible Hillary would be a different kind of President than Bill.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I don't disagree in principle with what you guys are saying, but that's not really the kind of change and idealism Obama is currently selling.

We like Obama because of who he really is, but a lot of people really like him for the fact that they don't see him as a politician at all. I guess I'm asking those people.

And for those who like Obama for Obama, does it concern you at all that right now people are being convinced that he's not who he really is?

Mike said...

I would argue that the whole "post-partisan" label has largely been applied by the media. I don't believe Obama has represented himself as something other than he is. Maybe this is because I've read his book, but I have never seen him make any effort to disguise the fact that he is solidly liberal. When I watched his post South Carolina speech, I found myself disagreeing with many of the (liberal) things he said and yet increasingly getting behind the idea of him being President. There's something to be said for that.

This sort of echoes Ben, but when people say they don't see him as a politician, I think they are referring to the fact that he has shown an ability to compromise and go across party lines to get stuff done. The fact that, historically, this is precisely what the best politicians have done seems to be lost on people. Obama is harping on his cross-partisan support, something Hillary lacks, and something most of the best presidents have had in some variety or other. I think this is what Patric was referring to in part of his response.

As a side note, Ben, I don't believe Hillary would be Bill Redux any more than Dubya has been Bush 41 Redux. Henry V and Henry VIII were different sorts of kings, but that doesn't change the fact that they were part of a monarchy.