Obama Should Govern From the Left

>> Monday, November 3, 2008

As the prospect of an Obama victory becomes more likely many commentators are feverishly penning articles that demand Obama respect, (1) this is a center right country, (2) everyone is really just voting against Bush, (3) "bi-partisanship", (4) the dangers of liberal over-reach. All of these arguments are designed to do one thing, make sure that Obama does not actually govern as *Gulp* a liberal. Obama was never going to be a kucinich or sandersesque leftist but he is solidly left of center and, apparently, this is very scary. There is no reason for him to hide his non-conservativeness or govern in a manner other than that which he promised to govern. Obama has promised to govern from the left and it is the correct thing to do.

What has Obama promised to do?

Favoring aggressive action to control greenhouse-gas emissions, he is open to considering nuclear power and has explicitly credited Republicans for promoting market-oriented approaches to environmental problems (and he has attracted the scorn of some on the left for doing so). A sharp critic of No Child Left Behind, he has spoken favorably about merit pay for teachers. Offering an ambitious health care plan, he would not require adults to purchase health insurance. His goal is to make health care available, not to force people to buy it--a judgment that reflects Obama's commitment to freedom of choice, his pragmatic nature (an enforcement question: Would those without health care be fined or jailed?), and his desire to produce a plan that might actually obtain a consensus. And, while he would raise taxes on the very richest Americans, he is hardly anti-business; indeed, he proposes to eliminate the capital gains tax for start-ups and small companies.

and for another take,

He’s running on a platform that promises universal preschool, dramatic cuts in carbon emissions and investments in clean energy infrastructure, health insurance that would be affordable for all, comprehensive immigration reform, substantial labor law reform, large new spending on K-12 initiatives, and tax reform to make the federal code much more progressive overall.

Is it really the suggestion of the arguments in the intro that Obama not follow through on these proposals? I think that to make the case that Obama should not actually do the things he has promised requires a stronger evidential showing than has been produced so far. In order to prevent Obama from enacting his promised initiatives we would need clear and convincing evidence that the American public is not supportive of them. I don't see that evidence.

Let's look at one issue in particular that many of the people who make claims about "bi-partisanship" want to see both sides get together and work out a new plan and not the one Obama campaigned on. If we look at two recent polls on the issue we find first a CBS News/New York Times Poll. Sept. 12-16, 2008 where 50% of respondents support fundamental changes and 35% support complete overhaul. To give some direction to this fundamental change we can gauche the attitudes of voters on universal coverage. On this topic an ABC News/Washington Post Poll from June found 66% supported coverage for all even if it meant an accompanying tax increase. Obama's position where he advances coverage without ending the employer based system fits squarely into the majority opinion in these two polls. Clearly people want the type of reform Obama is offering. If Obama's position already has solid majority support why should he let it be watered down and altered?

This finding is not limited to health care alone. A brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll found that when asked, "whether you agree or disagree with each of the following candidates on the issues that matter the most to you" 60% of them agreed that Obama is in alignment with them on the issues matter. If you do not like a poll as a basis for governing then consider that on Tuesday we have an actual election with the goal of deciding who we want to lead the country.

Elections are to determine the direction we want our country to go in. Voters have a choice between McCain and Obama and their myriad different policy positions. Some have argued that this election is not a ratification of Barack Obama and his policy choices at all but a simple repudiation of Bush. This argument makes the fundamental mistake of distinguishing Bush from the actions of the party which he lead. The Republican Party controlled every branch of government from 2000-2006. During that time frame we did not see the Republicans in either the house or the senate standing up to Bush and opposing the governing decisions that the American people are rejecting. The Republicans never sought to regulate the banking industry, the never sought to close Guantanamo, they opposed withdrawal from Iraq, they opposed S-CHIP, they were more than willing to support Alberto Gonzalez and the politicization of the DOJ. Bush was supposed to be the standard bearer for the conservative movement and his presidency will be the biggest failure in American History and the Republican party has held his hand all the way down.

The general point is that the American people are rejecting the failure of the Republican party in governance. If you really dont want to connect that failure to an ideological issue fine, but realize that there policy attitude has not changed. They will continue to advocate the same failed policy proscriptions without cleaning up the mess left behind by Bush. This will make working with them nearly impossible. Why would a President Obama compromise with the group that lead us headlong into this mess and refuses to change? Make no mistake the Republican's left in Congress after this election will not be the most moderate and interested in helping a president Obama.

So what does the political world look like on Wednesday if the gurus at ABC News are right? They all announced their guesses Sunday morning, and the average of their projections is 352 electoral votes for Obama plus a pickup for the Democrats of 24 seats in the House and 7 or 8 seats in the Senate.

If this happens, the upshot is that both parties get moved to the right. Most of the Democratic pickups will be in centrist states and districts, which will move the Democratic caucus moderately toward the center. At the same time, it will remove these centrist states and districts from the Republican side, which will make the GOP caucus not just smaller, but even more conservative than it is now. As a touchstone, the Republican Study Committee, the hardcore conservative wing of the House GOP contingent, currently represents a little over half of their total strength. After Tuesday they're likely to represent nearly two-thirds, which means that the rump of the House Republican caucus remaining after Tuesday is likely to be almost entirely in the hands of the most faithful of the movement conservative faithful. These true believers are not likely to give in quickly to the notion that hardcore conservative ideology needs a bit of freshening up if the party wants to regain its competitive edge. On the contrary, they'll probably double down, convinced that they lost only because John McCain and George Bush abandoned the true faith that America truly yearns for.

It is hard to image that the American people really want a president Obama who caves to the people who represent the exact thing they threw out of office. The American people want competency and success after eight long years of failure. That means simply delivering on what Obama has promised them. If Obama takes his plans, ratified and supported by the voting public, and executes them every thing will be fine. If instead he tries to moderate them and fails then his ideological background or governing from "the center" will be meaningless in the eyes of voters. We know the conservative plans don't work so why would we continue to use them? Obama should go with his natural instincts, left of center governance.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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