There appears to be some understandable confusion, since the election, as to whether Barack Obama is a Progressive or whether he is a Centrist. Much of the discussion has occurred within Barack Obama's support on the left. The questions are being fueled by Barack Obama's choice of personnel in filling cabinet posts. Thus far, he has made about 1/3 of those choices, yet, on the Left, some of his proposed appointees have stirred up controversy.
I have given thought to President Elect Barack Obama's approach to date, and I believe that I'm seeing a gameplan that may answer some of the controversy generated.
I propose that it will be much more effortless for President Elect Barack Obama to propose a progressive agenda, if he is not forced to defend from the media and the Right, each and every cabinet pick that he makes. Rather than getting bogged down with his choice of cabinet members, picking mainstream centrists will allow him to start out with a stronger hand in what he will propose. The idea is not to have to fight for anything and everything, every step of the way...in particular, coming out of the gate, as we are in too dire straits for that. Plus Obama is not a fighter in the classic sense.
It is my strong belief that Obama's goal is to concentrate on getting his agenda through, rather than getting busy defending himself from those who would point their fingers at his progressive cabinet picks saying...."see, we told you the man was a socialist! We try to warn you that with a Democratic majority in both houses of congress, the man will turn us into a socialist country!"
Had Obama named recognized progressive to post after post, Obama would be setting up a natural opposition to his agenda prior to even making one official proposal.
So when I look at who Obama is naming, most which are what the media have decided to call "centrists" and thus far seem to approve of...I suspect that there is a methodological approach in naming what some progressives (Krugman and Reich) as well as conservatives (Brooks) have labeled "Mainstream Pragmatist Brainiacs".
And so, I "get" what he is doing. And in so doing, he has provided himself with cover to actually concentrate on the policies he will be proposing, rather than spending electoral capital defending his choice of personnel. As you some well know, the media would have a field day if Obama chose Progressives that the left, as a whole, were in love with, to populate his entire cabinet.
I consider this maneuvering to be quite brilliant, and I was reminded, in reading the below paragraphs from an Obama 2004 letter to the Black Commentator responding to his name being listed with the DLC, that he will be working his policies in a different manner than what has been expected of him by those who haven't read his books or writings. What is important, however, is that I do believe that Obama's policy proposals will be progressive, even if their are formulated and proposed by those pragmatists seen as Centrists.
My job... isn’t to scold people for their lack of ideological purity. It’s to persuade as many people as I can, across the ideological spectrum, that MY vision of the future is compatible with their values, and can make their lives a little bit better. Thus, while I may favor common-sense gun control laws, that doesn’t keep me from reaching out to NRA members who are worried about their lack of health insurance. I favor affirmative action, but I’m still going after the votes of white union members who oppose affirmative action, because I think I can convince them that it’s Bush’s economic agenda, and not affirmative action, that is eroding their job security and stagnating their wages. And while I may object to the misogyny and materialism of much of rap culture, I’m still going to spend the time reaching out to a hip-hop generation in search of a future.
In other words, I believe that politics in any democracy is a game of addition, not subtraction. And I believe deeply enough in the decency of the American people to think that progressives can build a winning majority in this country, so long as we’re not afraid to speak the truth, and so long as we don’t write off big chunks of the electorate just because they don’t agree with us on every issue.
State Senator Barack Obama
Candidate for the U.S. Senate
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