Obama Tilts to Center?

That was my reaction when I saw this headline, largely because I've seen Barack Obama as a pragmatic, centrist politician pretty much since I watched him give his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. So what's going on in this article? Let's take a look.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
This is a great example of how marrying an accurate statement with a semi-accurate one and some utter crap can help form a powerful narrative. Let's break it down.
Accurate: President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party.
This is true, but it's hardly controversial. The left wing of the Democratic party, first of all, isn't all that left--this is the US after all--but it's also pretty pragmatic after having spent the last 28 years in the political wilderness. If we weren't, then Dennis Kucinich would have done far better in his two Presidential runs.
Semi-accurate: fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq
Obama's opposition to the invasion of Iraq certainly fueled his run--that's not at issue, seeing as it was probably the difference-maker, policy-wise, in the contest with Senator Clinton. But vehement? That's a loaded word, and brings to mind images of Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey, of Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11--that was never Obama's scene, though many of us on the left sure would have liked it. No, Obama was again pragmatic in his opposition to the Iraq War. He said it would be a wasteful war, and that we would be bogged down in Iraq. That's hardly vehement opposition.
Utter crap: by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
I'm never surprised to learn that every four years, the Democrats manage to have all the Senators who are running for President turn out to be the most liberal in that body. In 2004, the most laughable example of that wasn't John Kerry's position atop the National Journal's list--it was John Edwards coming in at number 4. Now I originally supported John Edwards in 2008, but he wasn't the same guy he was in 2004--he was talking a much different, much more progressive game. The writer of this piece, David Sanger, hedges his bets a bit by saying "one of the most," but the reality is this: Obama's Senate voting record is fairly middle of the road by any objective standard. He's no Bernie Sanders, but he's also no Bill Nelson.

What's the point of writing a piece like this? I think it's to reinforce the narrative that the US isn't actually leaning leftward, now that the Reagan Revolution seems to have imploded. The Republican party spent a lot of time trying to demonize President-elect Obama, calling him socialist, and he won anyway. The implications of that win are pretty clear--socialism doesn't scare the public the way it once did. This is their next attempt to claim the winner. Make a big deal of the fact that the new President isn't as far left as the Republicans attempted to cast him, and they can continue to marginalize the left.

But you know something? As long as the country is moving left, I don't really care.

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