The Mad Rush To the Center (And Right)


You can tell it’s time for the general election when the press speculates over potential “Sister Souljah Moments” for the Democratic candidate.

In the past few days Barack Obama has changed his mind on FISA legislation that gives telecom companies immunity for breaking the law; sided with the conservatives on the Supreme Court over a recent second amendment ruling on an individual right to own a gun; sworn to expand Pres. Bush’s Faith Based Initiatives program and a little over a week ago his campaign shooed away two Muslim American women in head scarves at an event.

I’m not particularly surprised by this. Moving to the center or right on some Liberal/Progressive issues are part and parcel for the Democrats since Bill Clinton did it in 1992. The only thing that really bugged me was how the two women were treated. Since African Americans have a history of being treated as invisible by the political process I’m always bothered when we do the same thing to others. It’s woefully hypocritical.

Many are trying to paint Obama as a Muslim as a slur and while he personally apologized to them, by shunning these two women his campaign is basically endorsing that stereotype. Muslim and terrorist/extremist are not the same things. Islam a religion and there is nothing wrong with the religion. It is the acts of individuals twisting the religion to justify their actions who are bad, not the individual followers of Islam. I wish the campaign could/would do something different to rebuke this slur that didn’t indirectly reaffirm the stereotype of Muslims as evil or anti-American even if they’re American citizens who are peacefully living, working and minding their own business in this country.

The fact that the campaign feels the rumor is so virulent that they had to shun two women in head scarves basically demonstrates that the assholes and bigots have won this round.

I also find it an interesting irony that while Obama is moving towards the center in an attempt to assuage those who doubt his patriotism and Christian faith, John McCain is trying to make sweet, sweet love to the hard right. He’s ditched a lot of his more centrist views (drilling in ANWAR, the plight of Guantanamo detainees, fighting the “agents of intolerance,” wooing the same individuals who attacked John Kerry and destroyed him during his 2000 campaign) in order to shore up his ground with the religious right.

Considering that the religious right kind of hates him, the only thing that brings them together is their fear/dislike of Barack Obama. This is why he pushes hard on the abortion issue (and appointing Supreme Court judges), the only issue he’s really on par with them. Although, historically he’s been lukewarm on a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

It’s truly absurd that the best action both candidates can make is to move to the right or righter. Especially when this time, more than any other time, a majority of Americans have soured on many conservative views and policies — from globalism to bomb first, ask questions later. People are open to an idea, any idea, to fix the healthcare crisis and are in disarray over gas prices, the housing crisis and job loss. In Missouri, Chrysler announced it was shutting down a plant in Festus. A few years back Ford left Hazelwood, Mo. Everyone hates the war in Iraq (although they disagree on how to end it). Many people aren’t enthusiastic over the possibility of bombing Iran, so I guess I’m not getting something.

I understand some moves to the center. I don’t like church and state touching each other, but I’m not going to oppose tinkering with the Faith Based Initiatives. I even support the individual right to own a handgun, but I’m also pro-gun control and people to be responsible for their actions if they use a gun improperly. I can work with these things … to a point. But I don’t understand the move to the right because it doesn’t give independents a clear view of the differences between the two candidates.

Buddying up to some right wing ideas reinforces Ralph Nader’s mantra that there is little to no difference between the two parties. This belief is what harms Democratic candidates in my mind. Especially since Republicans tend to run to even more so to the right in presidential elections. If you’re not offering an alternative, if you’re serving up Republican lite, people will simply just pick the stronger brand.

It’s like Coke v. New Coke. Or Coke v. Generic Supermarket Soda. I’d rather hear new and more innovative ways to tackle our issues from a progressive stance than an aping of Republican beliefs because “Liberal” has become a slur — not dissimilar from Muslim.

But perhaps I’m asking for too much. We’re talking about politicians, not saints. Both Obama and McCain are in this to win. I just know that moving to the center didn’t help Al Gore and it didn’t help John Kerry. It only worked for Bill Clinton because he’s Bill Clinton. In his day he could sell unicycles to paraplegics. I don’t know if anyone has the charisma on either side to pull that sort of gambit again, and these drastic changes sadly contradict Obama’s overall message of being a more principled politician.

7 thoughts on “The Mad Rush To the Center (And Right)

  1. I agree. I’m always a bit frustrated after the primaries of the lean to the right though I’ve never been confused about the centrist nature of Mr. Obama.I think that you make an excellent point about the bigots winning with the decision not to let the two ladies in headscarves be seen by cameras.

  2. I don’t agree that a former constitutional law professor voting to uphold the 2nd amendment, CHANGING the the faith based iniatives that have been going on in this country for DECADES(before the badly designed Bush version) or FISA which had been in acted several DECADES ago, is acting in a way that is not principled. FISA can be a necessary and important tool when the law is followed. This is what Obama will vote for next week. He is not voting to authorize it, he is voting to have it controlled and monitored(unlike what we have now).IMO the main thing that Sen Obama has been about through out his political career is listening to both sides of an issue and making a fair and judicious decision.That IS different than just voting party or partisianship. I think that he is a person like all of us and we are usually somewhere in the middle on most issues.I read a times article that Sen Obama wrote, where he eloquently discussed pro-life and pro-choice arguments. That was honest and different for Washington. At the end of the day, I think that is all he is trying to do that is “new politics”.You know what I mean??As for the two muslim sistahs, that had alot of baggage and some questionable affliations. If you dig a little you can learn more about them. It was not just a random yank the ladies with the head scarfs move…for the most part.

  3. kenyaw makes some good points. Who knows if what he says is true about the Muslim ladies, but I just would have a lot of questions about the whole situation. I think we all forget that Senator Obama is trying to win an election, and even is he has these great transcending ideas, his campaign managers are tasked to win the election, and will get him to do what’s necessary. As far as his more centrists views now, I think we’ll see the real Obama once he’s elected, maybe. The American voter is a lot more conservation that Democratic primary voters, and he’s got to speak their language to get their vote. I haven’t heard a lot from him since he won the nomination, but I hope he nonetheless stays true to himself. http://sethandray.wordpress.com

  4. I disagree with this article. I feel that some people either didn’t fully understand or research Obama’s positions during the primary season and now that he is articulating and discussing positions that some people don’t like, they are basically regurgitating Republican talking points about his stances on certain issues (I am making a generalization on what I have seen on other blogs, not trying to slam the Snob in particular). Should Obama filibuster the FISA bill, instead of just voting for the amendment to strip the telecom immunity provision (which he has said that he will do)? I don’t know. But sometimes you have to pick your battles to win your wars. The FISA issue is extremely complicated, and many that are criticizing the bill fail to realize the complexity of 4th Amendment precedent. That doesn’t mean that those arguments aren’t legitimate, but sometimes things aren’t as Black and White as people would like to believe. I don’t like the fact that there may have been an abuse of executive power as much as the next person, but there are several issues that are coming into play.And the Supreme Court ruling? I guess I am not as progressive as some, because I just don’t understand how you can prohibit people from owning a handgun. There is an individual right in the 2nd Amendment. However, I also think that gun ownership can be subject to reasonable regulation. Why does there have to be absolutes?And faith based initiatives? Sorry, but I read both of Obama’s books and it was clear that he felt these programs were valuable in these communities and you could sustain them while respecting the constitution. I just want to scream. Yes, we should absolutely hold Obama’s feet to the fire when we feel that he is wrong, or compromising his values. But we should also realize that he is not going to agree with us on every issue, and he is not perfect. That doesn’t mean that he is a right-wing hack, it just means that he is a human being working as a politician.

  5. Oh, and I forgot to comment about the two women being removed from the picture. I was extremely disappointed when I heard that, but I wasn’t surprised. The truth of the matter is, Obama has to walk a tight rope on this issue, and I don’t envy him. He has to dispel the falsity that he is a Muslim, while not reinforcing the stereotype that there is something wrong with Muslims. And while those volunteers may have been trying to head off a controversy, they made things worse. It was a mistake, that Obama personally apologized for. But for some, I do mean some people to suggest that it reflects the lack of inclusiveness of Obama’s campaign, is a bit much.

  6. My issue with FISA is the telecomm immunity. That is the problem with the bill, not restoring oversight (which I’m all for) but the fact that he’s supporting a bill that would give retroactive immunity to the telecomm’s who broke the law by turning over all our personal information to the Feds. That is the main issue that people are upset over. This is what Chris Dodd was going to filibuster back in January and Barack, along with Sen. Clinton said they would fight having immunity for the telecomms in the bill.So that’s my issue with it. Other than that I did write that I was fine with him supporting the Supreme Court decision to lift DC’s gun ban, which affect city gun bans across the country protecting the individual right to own a gun. I just wish there were more laws that made gun owners responsible if they use their guns in an improper way or use deadly force for situations that didn’t warrant it.Per the faith-based initiatives, I just don’t like anything that buddies up church and state. I feel like it degrades both the government and the church. They’re separated for reason. But I can accept him trying to fix it.While his more centrist leanings have become apparent since the general election began, Obama did paint himself in a corner a bit with the far left of the party. His voting record in the Senate jibbed with the beliefs of most Liberals. He didn’t run as hard left as Edwards or as Clinton eventually did (expect for her Hawkish foreign policy streak) during the primaries, but a lot of people projected what they thought of him and a lot of his supporters wanted him to keep up his lefty stances. But moving to the center is not new. Democrats have done this since Bill Clinton did it successfully in 1992. So I don’t really see this as a new kind of politics, but a politics of reality and expediency. Gore and Kerry did the same things. Even George W. Bush initially campaigned under the banner that he was a “united not a divider” before creating one of the most divisive presidencies ever. So as a politics watching veteran, Barack so for hasn’t done much that I haven’t seen before. He’s just much better with organization and utilizing his talents, unlike Gore and Kerry, who were wooden and slow to respond to attacks and shifting paradigms.He’s a better politician than them, as Bill Clinton was the best politician of his day. It’s an unpopular thing to say, but per their styles in running for president, they have a lot of similarities, but Barack doesn’t have Bill’s crippling flaws — like the woman chasing and the habitual lying. Obviously, sans those heavy anchors, Barack has a lot more moral and pure ground to work from.

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