Monday, December 17, 2007

Krugman column crystallizes my objection to Obama

I've had this complaint about Obama for some time, but today's Krugman column, "Big Table Fantasies", in the New York Times really expressed it well:

At one extreme, Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so “bitter and partisan,” and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a “different kind of politics.”

At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.

Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve.

I agree with Krugman here, and that's why I find myself leaning towards Edwards: the current ideologies and practices that dominate the Republican party (foolish belligerence, intolerance of criticism, cronyism, disrespect for the Constitution and rule of law, Christianism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.) need to be defeated, not given a seat at the table. Yes, we'd like Republican people to have a seat at the table. That kind of inclusiveness I can applaud. But certain ideas, like the ones I mention above, should not be a part American politics. And those who do not renounce them should be excluded as much as possible from political power.

It is legitimate to argue whether abortion should be legal or not, or what kind of tax system we should have, or what the penalties for certain crimes should be, or how much or how little the government should fund social programs. I have very strong opinions on these matters, but I accept that other Americans have differing views. And I understand that American policies must and should be the result of compromise among these differing views.

However, it is not legitimate to say that those who criticize the president's foreign policy are traitors, or that people with the wrong race or religion are un-American, or that the President is above the law and can imprison and torture anyone anywhere, or that it is more important for a job candidate to have correct political stances than to be able to do the job in question (see Imperial Life in the Emerald City). These are not positions that should be compromised with. They should be discredited. And the Republican party is currently dominated by people who advocate or implement such positions. I don't see how Obama can seriously think he can compromise with people who do not believe in the rule of law.

I do believe that there is a large swath of voters that does long for inclusion, and Obama does seem to be good at appealing to them. But his winning smile isn't going to work on the likes of Karl Rove, James Dobson, Grover Norquist, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and other hardened, powerful voices of the right wing, should they choose to set their sights on him. He's going to have to kick their ass. At some point, you gotta say, "That is crazy, that is wrong". And I want to know that Obama knows that. Some people can be persuaded, some can be accommodated, and I think we should persuade as many people as possible that a progressive vision is what is best for our country, and accommodate as many conservative concerns and objections as possible. But in the end, some people will have to be defeated if meaningful change is going to take place.

If America is better off eight years from now, I think that necessarily means that certain people, groups, entities, and ideas will not be better off eight years from now. A rising tide can lift all boats, but--OK in this age of global climate change that's probably a bad metaphor. I'll let this Edwards quote from Krugman say what I mean:
Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen.
(On the other hand, Obama did vote against the war in Iraq, and Edwards did (and since said it was a mistake) and that's gotta count for something.)


Anonymous Bill in Minneapolis said...

I agree. With Bush Republicans, you
cannot just sit down and have have an open discussion. Torture and a bunch of other issues are just not negotiable.

As we can see from the current deadlock in Congress, Bush is clearly saying 'my way or no way.'

7:28 PM, December 18, 2007  

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