It is not that the recent centrist moves by Obama involve issues that are vital. One can even argue that perhaps politically his vote on FISA, support of the 2nd Amendment, and opposing limits on the death penalty are less important than the need to win in November by appealing to the so-called center. The issue is betrayal to a promise of change.
One of my favorite political science professors was Milton Rakove who I had the good fortune of having a class with at the University of Illinois in 1964. He had the right balance of pragmatism and principal. He astutely observed that one has to be elected to govern. So he did not advocate radical positions in an election campaign. Which gets me back to the recent Obama move to the center.
While Bill Clinton and the DLC claim that their move to the center helped elect Clinton, I argue that it was really Ross Perot that won the election for Clinton. Perot was the reform candidate whose campaign fell apart primarily because he could not sustain his message credibly. Yet he was in the end able to take away votes from Bush 41. Clinton was a minority President in 1992 and 1996. It was hardly a mandate yet the Democrats have accepted this urban myth.
The so-called Obama movement for change probably will work for the November election because many of the new voters have no real memory of the past failed strategies of the Democratic political advisors. However, knowing Obama's political record in Illinois, I am becoming disillusioned by his recent decisions because his record in Illinois is clearly practical Chicago based politics as usual.
His recent joining forces with many in the Clinton Administration scares me. Madeline Albright advised Hillary to vote for the Iraq war resolution and her view of Realpolitiks is hardly reformist. Yet she was sitting around the table with Obama as a sign of unity. There has never been any objective evidence I have seen that moving to the so-called political center has ever helped Democrats.
I am hopeful that Obama's idea of change that he campaigned about is more than just words. He claims that the old Washington ways of doing things do not work and most of the country agrees with him. But, I am disappointed in what I believe is more than an anomaly. He may be classified as a liberal but I believe he has a very cautious, conservative personality. Being mentored by Durbin may help, but he must act like a change candidate and start taking some bold positions about specific issues. He probably will win in November but it would be a good idea to have the unconditional support of most life long FDR Democrats like myself. FDR did not play the game not to lose. He boldly presented new ideas courageously understanding the practicalities of politics. Obama has to think more like FDR in 1932 and 2008 is more like 1932 than any other election in recent history.