Obama Plays Right, the Left Faints

Amazing isn’t it? The Obama administration is pretty much in place
and nowhere — nowhere — was anti-war activist Cindy
Sheehan’s name even considered for Secretary of Defense! And how is it
that anti-poverty activist Jeffery Sachs wasn’t asked to run the
Treasury Department? As for Noam Chomsky — I find it incredible
that he was overlooked to run the state department. And how is it that
Rep. Barbara Lee languishes in Congress instead of being sent to the
U.N.? Or that President-elect Obama hasn’t taken the time to those his
support behind Sen. Al Franken’s election?

I’m joking of course. None of these quasi-academics or gadflies are
even interested in joining the administration. But the point —
that President-elect Obama is no liberal — is increasingly
obvious. Obama is a politician and a good one; probably better than the
much-praised Bill Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Obama’s got almost everyone
except his foresworn enemies in the tent.

How’d he do it? Well, unlike pretty much every other Democrat
running for the White House, Obama drew and kept drawing a stark
distinction between his campaign and the current White House. George W.
Bush is so disliked that anything different was going to seem better.
Obama was really different so he, by extension, had to be a whole lot
better.

Many of the assumptions made about this administration — it’s
tilt to the left — were made not, I suspect on anything Obama
said but more on a set of assumptions made about one policy stance. His
opposition to the Iraq war was hailed as proof of his hard-core
liberalism. As Vice President Al Gore made it clear he would not run
and as the Democratic left looked long and hard for a suitable
candidate, it settled on Obama because of his opposition to the war and
the color of his skin.

Liberals used to love Obama because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton, who
voted in favor of the war and spoke no nonsense about pulling out
tomorrow. Then, about three-quarters of the way through the campaign
they started loving Obama ’cause he was against the war and is black.
Even bobbles like Obama’s support for a Bush Administration
eavesdropping measure only created minor outrage which quickly died
down.

Why? A black man, figured the lefties, will stand up for their
values, representing and supporting any and all “Liberal” causes. This
is a new version of what conservatives like to call the “soft bigotry
of lowered expectations.” Only, of course, the expectations in the
minds of the hard-core left aren’t “lower” they’re “higher” as in
morally superior.

So much of the campaign against that ballot initiative assumed that
Obama’s supporters — whites, gays, minorities — all thought
the same on all issues and would, of course, vote against the same-sex
marriage ban. Democratic turn-out was expected to be high; Obama would
win the state; Prop. 8 would be defeated.

Only that’s not how things turned out. Prop 8 passed and much of its
support came from minorities opposed to the very idea in part because
of their religion or the teachings of their churches. (Disclosure:
Spot-on’s Pinpoint Persuasion Ad Network did some work for “No on 8”
but was not involved in any strategy or campaign decisions).

Fast forward to the inaugural where Rick Warren, the evangelical
preacher, has been asked to say the invocation at Obama’s swearing-in.
Like a lot of evangelicals and political conservatives, Warren has
likened gay marriage to child abuse and molestation; his views on
same-sex relationships are hardly liberal, let alone tolerant.

Still, his speaking at the Inaugural is a bit of fancy foot-work on
the part of the president-elect. It’s a bit of a returning-a-favor
since Obama was asked to appear — and did well — at
Warren’s Saddleback church, in a showcase designed to speak to the
religious right. It’s a little bit of a wink to the black church and
Rev. Jeremiah Wright whose pulpit shenanigans created such a
distraction for the Obama campaign over the summer. Controversial
preachers come in all flavors, now don’t they? The invitation is also a
nice bit practical politics, bordering on the cynical. Obama’s playing
to a crowd that he took special care in his victory speech to single
out and ask for support of his presidency,

All of which means that Barack Obama is one skilled politician. But
unlike former President Bill Clinton, Obama’s working on getting the
folks who aren’t in the tent inside. He’s let his supporters make
assumptions about what he’ll actually do with the understanding that
he’s a raging lefty so that group has almost no where to go — now
that he’s elected. More importantly, unlike the Clinton administration,
the left didn’t hold its nose and vote for Obama. They got behind him
and, for better of worse, they’re going to stay there.

Whether Obama actually manages to do accomplish his stated goal
— turning his detractors into supporters — remains to be
seen. But it’s gonna be fun to watch.

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