Progressives, including myself, have become somewhat disillusioned over the last couple of days as we watched our candidate seem to drop some of his core beliefs and move towards the center. I have no problem with a politician changing their mind. Heck, if President Bush would have changed his mind, we could have had our troops home four years ago. So, changing one’s mind is not necessarily a bad thing. What made Senator Barack Obama different was that he offered a new kind of politics, one that was not about political calculation but instead was about doing the right thing. Over the last seven days, it seems that we are seeing political calculation more than anything else.
The FISA bill may pose a conundrum for some politicians. Some may believe that they will be portrayed as weak and “supporting the terrorists” if they oppose this piece of legislation. I believe that there are two principles at stake with this legislation. First, all spying on Americans with regards to national intelligence should go through the FISA courts. Remember that during Alberto Gonzales’s tenure, the Bush White House decided that the FISA courts were too slow and too cumbersome. Therefore, they bypassed the court. This piece of legislation will prevent that bypass (in theory). Secondly, this piece of legislation offers immunity to the telecoms. I think the telecoms you get immunity if I can also get immunity from not paying my taxes for the next five years. I’m just saying…
So in this legislation there is a small sliver of good and a larger slice of bad.
Faith-based initiatives were a cornerstone of President Bush’s 2000 campaign. Unfortunately, as we have now found out, they were more about funneling money into the pockets of people that Bush liked. The program was less about helping the poor or decreasing inner-city violence. As a matter of fact, it had nothing to do with those kind of charitable issues. The program was about keeping the religious evangelicals in support of the Bush administration. Therefore, programs like intelligent design, abstinence-only, and similar programs were pushed by this faith-based initiative.
Obama’s proposal is not an update on Bush’s program, but instead it’s a complete reform or overhaul on this program. Anyone who has read his book The Audacity of Hope, understands that Obama is a man of faith. They should also understand that faith plays an important part in his life. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. I’ll wait and see how things shake out.
Now Obama’s recent stance on NAFTA is a little bit more confusing. During the primaries, it appeared that Obama wanted to take a hard look at this treaty and possibly renegotiate some of aspects. Recent statements seem to contradict this. For the last eight years, “free trade” has meant more profits for companies and more layoffs of American workers. This trend must stop if we are going to restore the middle class.
As a matter of fact, I’m surprised that Mexico hasn’t tried to renegotiate this deal. Jobs that originally went to Mexico have now gone to China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Why? Mexico was too expensive so it is now left with empty factories. Relatedly, the U.S. has unemployed workers, idle factories, and larger mansions.
I have not seen any convincing evidence to show that NAFTA has helped the American worker. If I am shown convincing evidence, I’ll rethink my position but currently I will support most measures that will strengthen unions and help the American worker. So I don’t think I can agree with Obama in this situation.
Finally, we reach the question of public financing. Early in his campaign, it appeared that Obama would support some sort of public financing. But in January and February, when it was clear that he was able to raise huge sums of money, the game seemed to change. So I don’t think that anyone was surprised when Obama decided to opt-out of the federal matching program. I think that most progressives are happy that we have a Democrat who is in a strong enough position to compete in fundraising. Without money, you can’t get your message out. For the first time in my adult life, it appears that the Democrats are going to compete in all 50 states. This is unprecedented.
So, as I’ve explained above, I don’t think any one of these issues warrant concern. However, if you take all these issues together, I think they show a trend that may be troublesome: A move to the center. Or dare I say it — Triangulation.
The politics of triangulation are not what I want to see. America has moved so far to the right over the last 25 to 30 years that people like former President Richard Nixon would be looked at as a moderate or even a liberal Republican. Think about that. We need to know and understand our convictions. These are not negotiable. The politics of triangulation basically makes anything and everything negotiable.
If Obama is trying to change his whole political philosophy to become more palatable to more Americans, I’m going to vomit. Unfortunately, that is something I cannot support. On the other hand, a change in a few policies, that’s no big deal.