Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Obama's essential conservative streak

Barack Obama, from his famous no red states/no blue states 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speech:

People don’t expect -- People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. [my emphasis]
Charlie Pierce, On the Trail, Obama's Basic Bargain Not Nearly Enough Esquire Politics Blog 06/26/2012, describing a Barack Obama campaign speech in Boston:

And why, in front of this audience, in this state, the president still felt compelled to reassure us all that he wasn't a wild-eyed liberal — most of the people here had figured that one out on their own, thanks — is beyond me. "We don't expect government to solve all our problems," he said. "This notion that, somehow, there's been some heavy tilt to the left in the Democratic party, well, in the past three years, I've cut taxes for the typical working family by $3800, cut taxes for small business 18 times, eliminate billions of dollars in regulation that didn't make sense. I don't believe we should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves. I don't think government can solve all our problems. But I do share a belief held by our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said, through government, we can do that which we cannot do as well for ourselves, that there's a common good we can invest in."

Then he went on to describe a whole list of big things that "we" did as Americans — interstate highways, the G.I. Bill, the Hoover Dam — that would not have been possible without the progressive impulse he had just reassured us he has carefully banked within himself. It's a strange, narrow road he's set himself on.

"Money we're no longer spending on war, use it to put people back to work," he said. "Rebuilding our roads. Rebuilding our ports. Building high-speed rail. All those ingredients that made us an economic superpower." And then, when he had them all ginned up, in the space of a paragraph, he pivoted to The Deficit: "I'm running for president because we need to reduce our deficit. We need to manage our debt." And, the air went out of the room as he called upon the patriotism of the wealthiest of our citizens, something that has not been in evidence in our politics for a very long time. [my emphasis]
Obama is not a progressive and is, at best, suspicious and contemptuous of labor and progressives.

The only way he can be pushed into pursuing progressive goals is by political movements doing what LGBT and Latino activists have done the last three and a half years: convince him that more disharmony will result from displeasing the left than from displeasing Republicans.

Progressives don't need Obama to like us or what we stand for. We just need him to do what needs to be done.

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