Amazing isn’t it? The Obama administration is pretty much in place and no where – no where – was anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan’s name even considered for Secretary of Defense! And how is it that anti-poverty activist Jeffery Sachs wasn’t asked to run the Treasury Department? As for Noam Chomsky – I find it incredible that he was overlooked to run the state department. And how is it that Rep. Barbara Lee languishes in Congress instead of being sent to the U.N.? Or that President-elect Obama hasn’t taken the time to throw his support behind Sen. Al Franken’s election?
I’m joking of course. None of these quasi-academics or gadflies are even interested in joining the administration. But the point – that President-elect Obama is no liberal – is increasingly obvious. Obama is a politician and a good one; probably better than the much-praised Bill Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Obama’s got almost everyone except his foresworn enemies in the tent.
How’d he do it? Well, unlike pretty much every other Democrat running for the White House, Obama drew and kept drawing a stark distinction between his campaign and the current White House. George W. Bush is so disliked that anything different was going to seem better. Obama was really different so he, by extension, had to be a whole lot better.
Many of the assumptions made about this administration – it’s tilt to the left – were made not, I suspect on anything Obama said but more on a set of assumptions made about one policy stance. His opposition to the Iraq war was hailed as proof of his hard-core liberalism. As Vice President Al Gore made it clear he would not run and as the Democratic left looked long and hard for a suitable candidate, it settled on Obama because of his opposition to the war and the color of his skin.
Liberals used to love Obama because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton, who voted in favor of the war and spoke no nonsense about pulling out tomorrow. Then, about three-quarters of the way through the campaign they started loving Obama ’cause he was against the war and is black. Even bobbles like Obama’s support for a Bush Administration eavesdropping measure only created minor outrage which quickly died down.
Why? A black man, figured the lefties, will stand up for their values, representing and supporting any and all “Liberal” causes. This is a new version of what conservatives like to call the “soft bigotry of lowered expectations.” Only, of course, the expectations in the minds of the hard-core left aren’t “lower” they’re “higher” as in morally superior.
So much of the campaign against that ballot initiative assumed that Obama’s supporters – whites, gays, minorities – all thought the same on all issues and would, of course, vote against the same-sex marriage ban. Democratic turn-out was expected to be high; Obama would win the state, Prop. 8 would be defeated.
Only that’s not how things turned out. Prop 8 passed and much of its support came from minorities opposed to the very idea in part because of their religion or the teachings of their churches. (Disclosure: Spot-on’s Pinpoint Persuasion Ad Network did some work for “No on 8” but was not involved in any strategy or campaign decisions).
Fast forward to the inaugural where Rick Warren, the evangelical preacher, has been asked to say the invocation at Obama’s swearing-in. Like a lot of evangelicals and political conservatives, Warren has likened gay marriage to child abuse and molestation; his views on same-sex relationships are hardly liberal, let alone tolerant.
Still, his speaking at the Inaugural is a bit of fancy foot-work on the part of the president-elect. It’s a bit of a returning-a-favor since Obama was asked to appear – and did well – at Warren’s Saddleback church, in a showcase designed to speak to the religious right. It’s a little bit of a wink to the black church and Rev. Jermiah Wright whose pulpit shenanigans created such a distraction for the Obama campaign over the summer. Controversial preachers come in all flavors, now don’t they? The invitation is also a nice bit practical politics, bordering on the cynical. Obama’s playing to a crowd that he took special care in his victory speech to single out and ask for support of his presidency.
All of which means that Barack Obama is one skilled politician. But unlike former President Bill Clinton, Obama’s working on getting the folks who aren’t in the tent inside. He’s let his supporters make assumptions about what he’ll actually do with the understanding that he’s a raging lefty so that group has almost no where to go – now that he’s elected. More importantly, unlike the Clinton administration, the left didn’t hold its nose and vote for Obama. They got behind him and, for better of worse, they’re going to stay there.
Whether Obama actually manages to do accomplish his stated goal – turning his detractors into supporters – remains to be seen. But it’s gonna be fun to watch.