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Obama On Getting Beyond Partisanship

From Mr. Obama’s second 2006 autobiography, The Audacity Of Hope – Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream, pp 24-5:

In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage. The victories that the sixties generation brought about—the admission of minorities and women into full citizenship, the strengthening of individual liberties and the healthy willingness to question authority—have made America a far better place for all its citizens. But what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions—that quality of trust and fellow feeling—that bring us together as Americans.

So where does that leave us? Theoretically the Republican Party might have produced its own Clinton, a center-right leader who built on Clinton’s fiscal conservatism while moving more aggressively to revamp a creaky federal bureaucracy and experiment with market- or faith-based solutions to social policy. And in fact such a leader may still emerge. Not all Republican elected officials subscribe to the tenets of today’s movement conservatives. In both the House and the Senate, and in state capitals across the country, there are those who cling to more traditional conservative virtues of temperance and restraint—men and women who recognize that piling up debt to finance tax cuts for the wealthy is irresponsible, that deficit reduction can’t take place on the backs of the poor, that the separation of church and state protects the church as well as the state, that conservation and conservatism don’t have to conflict, and that foreign policy should be based on facts and not wishful thinking.

But these Republicans are not the ones who have driven the debate over the past six years. Instead of the “compassionate conservatism” that George Bush promised in his 2000 campaign, what has characterized the ideological core of today’s GOP is absolutism, not conservatism. There is the absolutism of the free market, an ideology of no taxes, no regulation, no safety net—indeed, no government beyond what’s required to protect private property and provide for the national defense.

There’s the religious absolutism of the Christian right, a movement that gained traction on the undeniably difficult issue of abortion, but which soon flowered into something much broader; a movement that insists not only that Christianity is America’s dominant faith, but that a particular, fundamentalist brand of that faith should drive public policy, overriding any alternative source of understanding, whether the writings of liberal theologians, the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, or the words of Thomas Jefferson.

And there is the absolute belief in the authority of majority will, or at least those who claim power in the name of the majority—a disdain for those institutional checks (the courts, the Constitution, the press, the Geneva Conventions, the rules of the Senate, or the traditions governing redistricting) that might slow our inexorable march toward the New Jerusalem.

Of course, there are those within the Democratic Party who tend toward similar zealotry. But those who do have never come close to possessing the power of a Rove or a DeLay, the power to take over the party, fill it with loyalists, and enshrine some of their more radical ideas into law. The prevalence of regional, ethnic, and economic differences within the party, the electoral map and the structure of the Senate, the need to raise money from economic elites to finance elections—all these things tend to prevent those Democrats in office from straying too far from the center. In fact, I know very few elected Democrats who neatly fit the liberal caricature; the last I checked, John Kerry believes in maintaining the superiority of the U.S. military, Hillary Clinton believes in the virtues of capitalism, and just about every member of the Congressional Black Caucus believes Jesus Christ died for his or her sins.

You see, Obama’s Democrats would never put partisan zealots like Rove and DeLay in power.

(Never mind Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid or any of the new chairmen of the House and Senate committees.)

They would never do that. You have Obama’s word.

Oh, but have you heard, Mr. Obama has already announced that once he is elected President Rahm Emanuel will be his chief of staff?

From Rolling Stone magazine:

[T]here’s the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president’s enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting “Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!” and plunging the knife into the table after every name. “When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape,” one campaign veteran recalls. “It was like something out of The Godfather. But that’s Rahm for you.”

You see, Mr. Obama would not surround himself with radicals like the evil Karl Rove.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, October 31st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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