22 November 2008

The Dangerous Discourse of the Middle

In the NY Times, a gloss on recent commentary from various corners on Obama's apparent "tilt to the center":

President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

And so, we are supposed to understand, the first to be disappointed by the Obama administration will be the hardcore liberals who see themselves as his first, true, most ardent supporters, while those most relieved by his actions will be from the solid, stable, middle of American politics. Right?

Not so fast. That would be conflating what he does (or rather, what we expect him to do) with how he does it (how we expect him to do it). "Pragmatists" versus "ideologues" is a false, or at least not necessarily true, opposition. There's (to me) a more encouraging interpretation, which is to say that the apparently conventional (besides Hillary, who I think will anyhow end up being seen as a conventional, obvious choice once the buzz dies down), steady picks for administration posts are being made in order to facilitate the smooth implementation of a fairly leftist agenda. If for no other reason than that "radical" (for America) social-democratic solutions are what the world needs at this time. In other words, let's try not to confuse ends and means, and reserve judgment on how Obama's actual policies will "tilt" until we see some of them in practice... that would be the pragmatic response, wouldn't it?

1 comment:

Bronwen said...

i definitely hope you are right aldous!