Goodbye To All That


Ta-Nehisi says it well:

I keep meeting lefties who tell me Obama's "too soft" with these guys, and I keep looking at them like they're crazy. I am going to go out on a limb and say that there is something deeper at work here, something beyond the policy fights. I think a lot of us don't just want Obama to be effective, we want him to exact some measure of revenge. It's smart to understand the difference between the two, and moreover, how the desire for one can undermine the other. A section of conservatives love Sarah Palin because she drives liberals crazy. That she drives a lot of other people crazy too, and hence undermines herself, is beside the point.

Further thoughts here. I repeat my belief in the core attraction of Obama's candidacy and presidency: that he is not engaging in Rove-Morris daily politicking, or descending into the cable news muck. The whole point of the Obama candidacy, in my view, was to help us get past that to a substantive discussion of practical policy decisions which America simply has to face.

Is he tilting the country leftward? In one sense, yes. He believes that government has been too inert in confronting healthcare costs and access; he believes it was too passive in the face of irresponsible unregulated financial markets; he believes we need to move to a post-carbon economy sooner rather than later; he believes we should never have gotten into Iraq; he believes it is better to find a way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian question than to allow it to blow up the entire Middle East (and us); and he believes, it appears, that we have to hunker down in Afghanistan. Sure, he's liberal in this sense. But doesn't he have a fricking point after the last eight years?

In an ideal world, I'd favor a Sarkozy style carbon tax, an end to employer subsidies for health insurance, a swift departure from Afghanistan. I'd also like marriage equality in Alabama, an end to agricultural subsidies and a flat tax.

But the right had its chances and blew it. And the problems are real and he's our best bet at tackling them seriously for a long time to come. Moreover, Obama's proposals are within the center of rational debate, and he is open to persuasion. As he said last night, he's happy to back tort reform, or McCain's catastrophic insurance idea. He has also bent to the Clinton position on mandates. His proposal, one should recall, is to massively increase the markets for private insurance companies and drug companies. If David Cameron, the British Tory leader, were to propose this, he'd be called a Thatcherite radical. But in the world of Fox News, this is tantamount to government "take-over". Piffle. Claptrap. Bollocks.

The reform is also reformable. The healthcare exchanges - where individuals can buy insurance from competing plans - could be a strong basis on which to slowly decrease employer subsidies and encourage self-insurance. The "trigger" for a public option is a perfect Obama compromise because it is an empirical judgment. All these defensible and centrist proposals - while not as radical as I'd like - are nonetheless a great start and the achievement of near-universal insurance coverage would be a historic milestone. And you have to be a very bitter person to celebrate the denial of insurance to anyone.

In this, the tone of his discourse is critical. He would lose it all if he followed MoDo's advice. He needs to stay bipartisan, reasoned, and centrist to succeed. Despite the fulminations of an unhinged GOP, he is doing all of that.

Many of us supported him not to revive a right-left war, but to try to move past that divide. He has kept that promise. We need to reward him with our support.