...the theory doesn't really allow Obama to ever take a bold position on cultural chasms in America. Yes, he's acutely aware of the congressional math that "change" requires, and I think his silence on prop 8 can be traced directly to that--why risk a Senate seat in a red state, a vote on a progressive health care bill, to cut a controversial ad of marginal impact in California. But once Obama wins--after he's maximized his base of support in the House and the Senate--he'll be presiding over a divided country--not just a ballot measure in California--and he'll be just as hamstrung as he is right now [...]
Herein lies the potential for great politics when the point of order is health care, or stimulus, or the environment--anything that has a significant empirical aspect to it. The problem is that, as a corollary to this approach, Obama can't really touch the moral divides that split the country--abortion and gay marriage--without jeopardizing other coalitions. At the end of the day it seems as if he's come to terms with that trade off. But it is a trade off, and it means that we can expect Obama to limit his real impact on culture wars to the appointment of like-minded judges, silent in the hope that the tide of history--looming demographic realignment, maybe, or a politically mobilized youth--will bring about the change on its own over time.
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