Thursday, January 17, 2008

Et Tu, Barack?

As the campaign reaches fever pitch, the candidates are slipping toward caricatures of themselves--Huckabee's piety, Hillary Clinton's control-freakiness, John Edwards' angry man act, and now Barack Obama gives us too much audacity about hope in praising Ronald Reagan for "clarity...optimism...a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

True enough that Reagan rode to the White House on "the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s," but it was Nixon's resentful Silent Majority that propelled him there to express, behind the "Morning in America" fa├žade, a social meanness that cut taxes for the very rich and falsified a "trickle down" effect for everyone else.

After his Iowa victory, Obama said, ""The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face...who won't just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know."

In this campaign, there has been very little of that, but Obama has showed some signs. Tuesday night, for example, he dared to suggest that one way to cut American dependence on foreign oil is to consume less energy:

"We are going to have to make our buildings more efficient. We're going to have to make our lighting more efficient. We're going to have to make our appliances more efficient. That is actually the low-hanging fruit if we're going to deal with climate change...

"And there's no reason why, with the kind of presidential leadership that I intend to provide, that we can't make drastic cuts in the amount of energy that we consume without any drop in our standard of living."

Not exactly a call for blood, sweat and tears, but amid all the pumped-up promises of no-cost change, Obama has here and there dropped a hint that it will take more than optimism to cure the economy. It's disheartening to hear him praise the false hope of the 1980s in an attempt to "bring us together" and pick up some votes from surviving Reagan Democrats.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, so much better to let those reagan democrats vote republican.

With the exception of Carter (very barely), no Democrat has earned the votes of more than 50% of the population since LBJ, 44 years ago.

Obama is the one Democrat in my lifetime who could actually build a substantial majority behind Democratic ideas. Reagan said nice things about FDR, and even JFK, because he was no fool - thats how he won those Reagan dems in the first place.

We should support Barack's attempt to win over that extra 10% that voted for Reagan in '84 - the difference between 50% and 60%.

jfreeland said...

anonymous:

"no Democrat has earned the votes of more than 50% of the population"

In truth, considering the voter turnout is only about half, no one has even earned 30% of the eligible voters. Reagan was elected with about 28% of the eligible voters. Not much of a mandate hen you think about it.

I don't think Obama will catch many "Reagan Democrats." His base is younger than that. His "hat tip" to Reagan is probably part of a broader strategy to be a consensus-builder.

Liza said...

Good post.

An even sadder story is Israel. All the frontrunners support continuing unconditional support of Israel while Bush parades around the Mideast making a fool of himself.

No frontrunner will get near the Israel problem. Just unconditional support for Israel is all you hear. No one can get elected by suggesting that Israel be held accountable.

Bush's peace journey is another brual and bad joke in his legacy.

Liza said...

"Make that brutal and bad joke."

I should preview, huh?

Carl said...

I agree with the Brutus allegory.



You can build a consensus amongst Democrats and Republicans, and I give him a little bit of credit for trying to do that, but here's the thing: the primaries are won in partisanship, unfortunately, and by going here, Obama has opened up a wound that won't easily be plastered.

I can't even begin to imagine what the more vocal elements of the Democratic liberal base are saying privately. Not many have come out in support of Obama's comments, and I suspect there's an awful lot of arguing going on in The Town House about whether to support him any longer.

He had already fallen out of favor with such influential bloggers as Atrios and Kos. This can't be good for his candidacy.

slag said...

Who are these Reagan Democrats and where have they been the last 7 years?

Just askin'.

And yes, you win for best title on this issue.