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Posted by on Jan 28, 2008 in Politics | 20 comments

From Here to Uncertainty


It is at once painful and exhausting to live with the conflicts inside my brain. One year, I’m a Republican, then an Independent, then an almost-Democrat, and back again to Republican. One minute, I embrace hard-line conservative platitudes about shrinking the size of government; the next, I’m ready to embrace universal healthcare, regardless of the cost.

Thus my political revolving-door spins. I’m no more reliable or constant in my theories and beliefs than a child. One would think that, after 43 years on this planet, I would have settled into some sphere of consistency. And yet, the longer I live and the more I learn, the less clear I am on what I think I understand.

No wonder the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, progressives, libertarians and all other varieties of political classes reject me. If I were one of them, I’d reject me, too.

Funny thing is, among the electorate’s chattering masses, a convulted belief system might just be the rule rather than the exception. Consider: During the 24-year span of my personal election history, our country has moved from a day when so-called “Reagan Democrats” marched en masse across party lines to prove that their political enemy was, at that point in time, the best hope for the nation’s healing — to a day when so-called “Obama Republicans” could choreograph their own rendition of the same dance.

Naturally, this dance drives certain people crazy.

In a post published yesterday, Rick Moran argues that:

… despite his obvious gifts, Obama has not fleshed out many of his basic, fundamental principles and how they would play a role in his presidency. Just what exactly does he stand for besides the vague platitudes about “hope” and “change” that pepper his speeches like little dollops of whipped cream? Where is the rock to which he tethers his beliefs?

I don’t think this is a question of intellectual laziness but rather it is a matter of not having spent enough time confronting, questioning, strengthening, and ultimately adopting in his own mind the bedrock foundation of a political philosophy …

For this reason, at the present time, Obama would make a terrible president – beyond the fact that I believe his policies to be wrongheaded and even dangerous. And given the perilousness of the times, it is very possible that an Obama Administration – like the Bush Administration – would find itself eventually crashing on the shoals of history; battered and bruised by the inconstancy and contradictions that would afflict a basically rudderless chief executive.

Beyond his unsubstantiated comparison of Obama to Bush, beyond his glancing dismissal of Obama’s very specific policy proposals, the primary exception I take with Moran’s argument is his suggestion that a “bedrock foundation of a political philosophy” is a pre-requisite for a good President. Philosophies are philosophies. Real life is real life. And the real life of 2008 is a remarkably complex time, unlike any other in my experience; a time when, yes, history should be a guide on which we rely, but not a guide to which we are addicted or obliged.

In other words, Obama’s transcendence of traditional politics, his untethered approach to the issues, his perceived lack (or is it a rejection?) of bedrock philosophies — those things that make Moran uncomfortable are the same things that I and others find remarkably appealing, the very things that could make Obama the one candidate ideally suited to help us sail through these inconstant, contradictory times.

We’ve already endured eight years of a president who is so stubbornly anchored to a philosophy that he can’t accept challenges to it, who can’t assimilate and adapt to the nuances of a confusing and conflicted age. Maybe it’s high time we consider a president of the precise opposite mentality.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • PaulSilver

    Pete, you are among the rest of us for which party labels do not fit.
    This year I am relatively left of center. If the Dems screw it up and, for instance, don’t control the porkers like Murtha and Byrd I may be back in the right of center. This is one reason why I am a fan of open primaries where independents can have an influence of the rise of pragmatic and open minded candidates regardless of party.

  • superdestroyer

    I doubt if there really are very many Obama Republicans. The Reagan Democrats were middle class moderates and conservatives who the Democratic paerty walked away from in the 1970’s. There was little that the so-called Reagan Democrats could support in the party of forced busing, hyper inflation, high crime, and high inflation.

    Senator Obama is just picking up the shrinking number of moderates who are still capable of voting for candidates in either party. I doubt if any fiscal conservatives or social conservaitves will vote for Obama. However, I could see a large number of upper middle class suburbanites (lawyers, doctors, government workers) voting for Obama because of the ineptness and stupidty of the Bush Administration. However, I doubt that those upper middle class whites really support the open borders, wealth redistribution, nationalizing healthcare, increased affirmative action, and higher taxes that Senator Obama is proposing. Yet, since the Republicans have no credibility on any of their proposals, those educated suburbanites have no were else to go but to Senator Obama. That is why he spend so little time talking about issues but has been reduced to his tent revival speech.

  • shaun


    This is a great post because it captures with smarts and eloquence what a whole lot of people are going through. Mr. Moran, it would seem, is have a bad case of sour grapes.

  • The genius of Obama is that his philosophy *is* tempered by reality. Instead of staking out ultra-left wing positions, he realizes that compromise will be necessary with the right unless the congressional landscape changes dramatically in the next election.

  • Idiosyncrat

    Pete, never apologize for thinking. Never.

  • shika_one

    You are so right ChrisWWW. Obama’s speech after his big South Carolina win reached out again to the other side, embraced all, and was cautious. I think there is so much cynicism floating in politics that a man like Senator Obama is looked at as a cartoon character. but as it has been mentioned before, in has a lot of JFK qualities. In these times, I feel JFK qualities are sorely needed. we’ll see if Americans agree.

  • shika,
    I think it’s debatable whether there will be a big difference between how Clinton and Obama would govern. But the way Obama is campaigning and packaging himself and his ideas couldn’t be more different from Clinton. She really does represent the old guard, do anything to win, style of politics.

    If it’s possible, in the next president, I want to see a strong repudiation of the Bush years along with a real attempt at bringing America together to solve our biggest problems.

  • casualobserver

    If it’s possible, in the next president, I want to see a strong repudiation of the Bush years along with a real attempt at bringing America together to solve our biggest problems.

    Do you mean you wish to see liberal policies enacted, or like some here have already shown the proclivity towards, spend even the next four years still wallowing in the rearward looking disease of the mind called BDS?

  • shika_one

    Well I’m a liberal, don’t have BDS (never have), and want to see REAL bipartisan policies enacted, not just liberal ones. I feel Senator Obama is best suited to do that job.

  • superdestroyer

    I would love to hear an example of a real bipartisan policy. Do they really exist or are they boilerplate Democratic policy proposals dressed up for Senator Obama and defended by the Democratic by calling anyone who disagrees with them as a bigot, racist, or stupid?

  • Guest

    I believe Obama’s ethics reform bill was bipartisan, as were other bills I understand he supported, including the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, and the SCHIP expansion proposal.

  • superdestroyer


    But McCain-Kennedy immigration bill was a disaster that almost no Repubican supported except for McCain, Graham, and President Bush. The rank and file Republicans revolted against the Republican leadership of the legislation.

    SCHIP was an expansion of an entitlement program that has been filibustered by the Republicans. I do not see much Bipartisanship.

    Outlawing free travel and jet rides from lobbyist was a no-brainer for all politicians. However, if you look at Senator Obama’s new proposals they include campaign finance reform that will destroy the Republican Party and but liberal activist in most elected offices. Not exactly bipartisan.

  • casualobserver

    “Well I’m a liberal, don’t have BDS (never have), and want to see REAL bipartisan policies enacted, not just liberal ones. I feel Senator Obama is best suited to do that job.”

    Well, although not that many D’s since Sam Nunn have suited me, I can “observe” how Obama’s personality/demeanor has worked to produce a considerable following.

    The true test of anyone’s bipartisanship, though, will only come if the composition of the Congress requires it.

  • BDS BDS BDS… the cry of those who can’t defend Bush on the merits of his record.

    SCHIP was an expansion of an entitlement program that has been filibustered by the Republicans.

    It was passed and then vetoed by the President.

  • PaulSilver

    Superdestroyer or anyone out there:
    Can you try again to explain in some detail how campaign finance reform will destroy the Republican Party and put liberal activist in most elected offices.
    It seems to me that many districts will still elect conservative representatives regardless of the source of campaign funds.

  • superdestroyer

    Ok, SCHIP is the liberal perfect definition of bipartisanship. A few Republicans voting with 100% of the Democrats.

    As the majorities of the Democrats get bigger in the House and Senate, the Democratic Party will be enable to look more moderate while actually adopting more liberal policies. When the Democrats get more than 60 seats in the Senate, moderate Senators will be able to vote to close debate and then vote against the actual bill while knowing that it will get more than 50 Democratic votes.

    Does anyone really believe that a politicians from Chicago, one of the bluest areas in the country, really knows anything about bipartisan consensus?

  • superdestroyer

    Public financing of elections puts liberal activists on a career path. First, get a job in an NGO. Then get a job as a congressional staffers. Then, when your liberal, Democratic boss retires, let him name you as the heir apparent. No worry about fund raising, No worry about a self-funded candidate. No worry about a mid-life change into politics.

    Unless you have term limits and adopt a part time legislation, public financing rewards unions, NGO. and activist and punishing private sector individuals who want to get started in politics.

  • What disqualifies a private sector individual from getting public financing?

  • Idiosyncrat

    Bipartisanship is a tricky prospect. On some issues there will be consensus and meeting of the minds, but on others there most certainly won’t be… There are some serious differences out there as to how this country should be run and not all of those differences could or should be bridged. Coming to the middle on some issues often neuters it’s effectiveness and makes it worse than the alternative. If enough people elect representatives of a certain persuasion, they are indicating that things need to change and a new policy isn’t going to necessarily be bipartisan. And just because the Republican party has a particular stance on an issue, that doesn’t mean that the stance should be accommodated.. Sometimes such stances are, well, you know, WRONG and must be repudiated.

    That said, this is not just about policy, but about temperament. You’re never going to be able to please everyone, but a good leader can gain acceptance for his ideas or at the very least respect from those who disagree with him or her. This is a quality you see in Obama but is notably absent in the shrillness of Clinton and the “with us or against us” disposition of W.

    SD: The Democratic Party lacks party discipline almost to a fault. If enough Democrats are elected to office, you’ll see divisions among the ranks. Such differences won’t be as extreme as pro-choice vs. anti-abortion legislation, but they can account for what the policy looks like (i.e. banning certain late term procedures, etc.) — similar to what dreamy-eyed bi-partisan efforts would ultimately look like on such a policy.

    Also, SD, I share your concerns that public financing might favor seated incumbents who have the power of name recognition and inertia, but I don’t see it as necessarily favoring Democrats. Plenty of activist, inertia-affected Republicans out there, too. And not all private sector people looking to get into politics are Republicans… That’s a very stereotypical and myopic view IMHO.

  • DLS

    Bipartisanship used to be called “Me, Too Republicanism.” (a.k.a. Democrats Lite)

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