Monday, April 16, 2007

Is Obama a Mushy Centrist?

Let me second what Matt Yglesias says here:
Concern that Obama's been imprecise about his policy vision is fair game. I think, however, that liberals will be making a huge tactical and strategic error if we simply equate political figures who seek to portray themselves as "beyond conventional categories" as squishy moderates. Being perceieved as beyond conventional categories is, simply put, a useful quality in a politician. Similarly, I know a lot of liberals who are put off by Obama's complaints about "the smallness of our politics" -- viewing them as Broderish complaints about partisaship. The line, however, is perfectly consistent with Kuttnerish complaints about a certain kind of narrow technocracy standing in lieu of forcefully advocating change.

Indeed. It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama is, indeed, squishy. But as I wrote some time ago, Obama's "let's move beyond the old categories" message is about a kind of national reconciliation, one in which the hippies and the squares stop sniping at each other. But it is not a political reconciliation, some Broder-esque, centrist, split-the-difference-between- Democrats-and-Republicans, that Obama is offering. When he talks about this stuff, it is when he's offering the grand, sweeping rhetoric about our national political identity - not when he's answering a question about whether we should raise the minimum wage or not, or what we should do about health care, or when we should get out of Iraq. Because of this, he can still offer progressive policies without seeming hypocritical.

But will he? We'll see.

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