Friday, July 04, 2008

Obama's Changing Message of Change

Today the New York Times editorializes about the "New and Not Improved" Barack Obama.

It's disheartening to see "The Audacity of Hope" beginning to morph into "The Mendacity of Change" and disappointing that Obama may be taking for granted those whose hopes he stirred and reaching out too far and too fast to those who will only see his efforts to build consensus as duplicity and weakness.

A month ago, it would have been unthinkable to write that sentence, but since wrapping up the nomination, the apostle of the New Politics has been looking like a Mr. Hyde of the old on almost an issue a day--public campaign financing, telecom immunity in the FISA bill, gun control, the death penalty for crimes not involving murder and the separation of church and state.

"We are not shocked," the Times says, "when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games."

Political purity is not the issue in all this. Many Obama admirers value, among other qualities, his open-mindedness and his not-Bush aversion to dogmaticism. But these recent rapid shifts of substance and tone raise suspicions of calculation and opportunism--of a too-clever-by-half attempt to retool his image for demographic purposes.

If so, he and his campaign advisers risk losing much of what got him to where he is now--an authenticity that this year's voters desperately want.

The campaign may want to stop worrying so much about converting Independents and liberal Republicans and concentrate on winning over and solidify his support among those Democrats who backed Hillary Clinton. They are a more natural constituency for him, if he can win and keep their trust.

In a dialogue with dissenting voters on his web site about his FISA position, Obama made a point worth keeping in mind for the long run:

"I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I’m not exempt from that. I’m certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too."

4 comments:

Black Political Analysis said...

Clearly this is a case of waffling political strategy. Team Obama can't seem to make up its' mind if it wants to get the largest electoral coalition possible (i.e. go to the political middle); or, stick to his intuitive liberal principles, which Democratic primary voters lap up, but which run the risk of alienating Independents/moderate Republicans.

John said...

Public Financing - Obama would have been at a disadvatage because the RNC is loaded and the DNC is not.

FISA - Should we prosecute the telecoms? They might win.

SCOTUS on the 2nd Amendment - A reasonable decision. What is a "militia," anyway?

Obama's Kansas roots are serving him well with most. The big question is how he'll handle the big issues: Economy, Energy, Health Care, and Iraq.

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...

Unthinkable?

Ron Davison said...

I guess I'm happier to see political compromise than ideological purity. It is a big country with lots of interests - you can get a lot of the important things right without having to stand fast on every issue.