There has been a lot of chatter about Barack Obama “moving to the center” or “governing from the center”. Victor Navasky wrote in a Comment for the Nation reacting to all the pundits saying that Obama’s Cabinet appointments and Inaugural Address showed he was moving to the center:
First, as our friend and backer Paul Newman used to remind us, The Nation was valuable because it helps define where the center is. The center can shift. When Obama added to his ritualistic description of America as “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus” a new category–“nonbelievers”–it was almost unbelievable, as he quickly helped redefine where the center was.
Second, based on what we know about Obama–his books, his initial intuitive stand against the war in Iraq, his Senate voting record, his campaign, his inaugural speech–I don’t believe it. At most, he seems to me a liberal wolf in centrist sheep’s clothing.
And finally, faced with the ever-more-dire economic crisis, his commitment to a Keynes-based economic stimulus and renewed regulatory rigor (see his inaugural reference to not letting the market “spin out of control”) suggests that, at a minimum, he flunked Centrism 101.
As Navasky (and Paul Newman) both know, the center moves.
Michael Tomasky writing in the Guardian (the whole piece is very interesting by the way) points out
Now we are in the age of Barack Obama. Now it’s conservatism that has broken down and contracted into a narrow ideology. And Obama’s project is nothing less than to revive this pre-1970s conception of liberalism as an ongoing civic project to which all contribute and from which all benefit. It was there in his inaugural speech when he spoke of “the price and the promise of citizenship”, and it’s present in his early proposals. The stimulus package that he began negotiating with congressional leaders last week is an audacious experiment along these lines. Let’s invest these billions together, he is saying, and in time the investments will bear fruit and benefit everyone.
I’m hoping that Navasky and Tomasky are right. I’m hoping that just because John McCain is now whining about not liking the Recovery and Reinvestment bill, President Obama and the Congress will not cave. When I heard McCain I started screaming at the radio, “But you lost!”