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Obama's "Centrism" is Protective Coloration

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Bard Schmookler     Permalink
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A reader on my website recently comment that “Obama is too centrist for me.”  This elicited from me the following thoughts.

I am not sure of this, but I'm willing to bet that Obama is not really centrist-- at least not in any meaningful sense, when it comes to fundamental goals and deepest vision.  I believe that, in terms of his vision for what a society should ideally be, Obama is rather radical.  If he could successfully take America to where he'd like for it to be, you'd find us not with something like the status quo but with something far more like the values of radical utopians.

But however utopian he may be in his vision, Obama is not utopian in his political strategy.  He is firmly realistic.  And he realizes that in America the best way of getting the country moving in those directions –particularly in view of how his political opposition seeks to discredit him-- is to go out of your way to make America see you as a centrist. 

Nothing to worry about.  Nothing radical. 

Obama appreciates that the way things are is the way things are, and he's willing to work with them.  Which means using the power systems as he finds them, and it means presenting himself to the public in the carefully crafted way that he does-- part of which is to continually reassure Americans that he is the contrary of radical, the contrary of someone who's itching for a fight, the contrary of the strange alien the Republicans tried to make him out to be.

It is great theater, what he does.  And, in some fundamental ways, it's also true.  He does have allegiance to a lot of what there IS about America, because he knows that is what he has to work with.  He's not going to get America from here to there except by using the existing set-up, which includes drawing upon the likes of Larry Summers and Hillary Clinton.

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(What Hillary achieved this week in places like Indonesia was, I think , radical.  Her words about Obama's great regard for Indonesia wrought radical changes in the minds of millions there.  And so it goes, now, across the world. 

We now have a government that is TRULY interested in Green Energy.  That is a radical change.)

Whatever the extent of his vision for desirable transformation, he understands that in America this transformation can only happen by steps.  And he figures that the more he can reassure Americans that he's just fixing things, with a little change thrown in, the more he’ll actually be able to change things. 

So his rhetoric is about fixing things –partly because the necessities imposed by this crisis require a lot of repair work, and partly because this a form of theater he uses to dress up the process of transformation.

Again, I could be wrong.  This involves interpretation, since by definition the presentation is crafted and, while honest, is not fully forthright.  (He tells nothing but the truth, but he keeps a lot of what he believes to be the truth to himself. )  So, being an interpretation, it could be mistaken.

But this is what I see.
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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