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The Obama era begins

Congratulations to President Elect Barack Obama. Regardless of how the next few years go, he has inspired people and broken a glass ceiling that should have been broken long ago. We should always support the office of the president, and I wish Obama the best as we head into some challenging times.

Having said that, I want to bookmark for future reference my Hopes (tm) and fears concerning his victory.

Good things about Obama's victory
1. "Hope": For all the hokiness of political slogans, Obama has created hope - among minorities, among the Left, among everyone who thought that the Neoconservatives had a lock on things. I have a lot of friends who are normally intensely cynical about politics, who have a bright and shining stainless faith in this man. It's good for us to periodically cleanse ourselves of that venom against the system.

2. Race relations: It's time we white guys got used to the fact that women and minorities can do the Important jobs. Racism is still with us, regardless of what people say, but this election is a huge step in the right direction.

3. Image: In a lot of ways, I see Obama as a paper candidate - someone who looks good, dresses well, can speak eloquently (at least by today's diminished standards), but doesn't have much in the way of actual accomplishments. But let me give him credit here - the President is largely a human symbol - someone who leads us all along the same path, inspires us, makes us look good around the world. Obama , more than anyone since Reagan, has what it takes to do that.

4. He's a wonk: When I say "wonk," I mean someone who lives and breathes by a set of ideals, who thinks all the time about the minutiae of governance. While he might not quite be the visionary that Al Gore is, Obama is a very smart guy, a thinker, and someone who is willing to listen to others. Let me give a couple of examples:

4a. Read this essay from Obama to the crew over at the DailyKos. He thoughtfully and intelligently takes a moderate position against some left wing extremists (in particular, he defends John Roberts as a good choice for the Supreme Court). Precious few modern day politicians would take the time to write such an essay.

4b. Obama is tech-savvy, and has been in contact with people like Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig on tech. policy. Don't know who Lessig is? Doesn't matter; suffice it to say that he is the intellectual leader in a complex field. Obama didn't try to use the pre-built Democrat platform. He went to the experts.

So these are all good things. A smart guy who thinks a lot about governance, projects a snazzy image and consults with the experts.

Here are my worries
1. Inexperience: No matter how you slice it, Obama is unusually inexperienced for his new job. He has never had executive experience of any kind, and now will hold the highest executive office in the land. He only arrived on the national stage in 2005, and half the time since has been spent campaining. Basically, we are giving the presidency to a guy with 1.5 years of full-time experience about the state level. I like my leaders to have a proven track record and some experience under their belt. I think we have a lot of words to judge Obama by, but few actions.

2. Almost socialist stance: Keep in mind that I'm an independent generally, and was a fervent Ron Paul guy this time around, voting for him in the Republican primary before voting for Obama in the general election.  However, it's clear from everything we do know about Obama's upbringing, his associations, the legistlation he's brought forward, his speeches, and his ratings from the various agencies that Obama is very much on the far left of the political spectrum. Both the National Journal and Michael Moore called him the "most liberal senator," for instance.

And that's fine. Every point on the political spectrum, from the far right to the far left, has an internal consistency that can be espoused by well-meaning and intelligent people. But let's at least be honest about it. I think it's highly likely that a strongly Democrat Congress with Obama at the helm will take us down the road to socialism post haste. The middle-of-the-road rhetoric of "tax cuts for everybody while all the stuff you want receives better funding" simply can't be tenable over the long run.

Here's an excerpt from a 2001 interview in which Obama seems to see the Constitution as an obstacle in the way of "redistribution":

"And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties."

Well, yes. The Consitituion is exactly a list of what the government can't do, as a protection from an overreaching, socialist style government. Obama seems to wish it were otherwise.

I'd like for us to be more transparent.  If Obama were to say, "I'd like to tax you at 50%, and in return you'll get x, y, and z," I'd know what to do with that.  But instead, we've been given a portrait of the candidate that's inconsistent with his past. Why?

3. Troubling associations: Obama seems to have extensive connections to ACORN and similar groups, who at best have little respect for truth in their electioneering, and at worst are actively (and illegally) sabotaging the system. He did sit in a pew for 20 years learning at the feet of one of the leading black liberation theologians, hearing America slandered every possible way. He does have a lot of connections to (and support from) socialists/communists, America-haters, wannabe terrorists, and so on. Maybe it's just that he came up from the "rabblerousing Left". Maybe that's fine. But it makes me wonder how Machiavellian he may truly be. The campaign already has shown a quick fist in dealing with anyone who is critical. How will things be when he has all the machinery of the White House at his disposal? Could he end up the left wing equivalent of Nixon? I hope not.

In the end, I voted for the guy, and my vote was a vote for "hope," too. I have a hard time taking anything at face value. I let the accusations sink in and worry me. Hopefully he'll succeed in most of the ways we've hoped for, and four years from now we'll all be in a better place.

The best thing I can do is to wish him all the best and support the office of the President.  I will try my best to believe in the Change We Can Believe In.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
Let me speak to some of your worries. First, I'm not sure that the inexperience thing is as big of deal as some have implied. Both Clinton and JFK, arguably the best Presidents we've had in the past 70 years, came in to office at young ages and little experience compared to the likes of Nixon, LBJ, etc. Let's also not forget that Obama has been involved in politics for most, if not all, of his adult life in one form or another.

Also, I don't buy into the idea that someone needs "executive" experience either. In fact, I'm quite pleased that we have elected a sitting Senator for the first time since JFK. Remember, Obama also has experience as a state senator. I think that the type of experience a Senator has is exactly what we need at a time like this. In general, Senators are much more wonkish and are far more pragmatic about matters than others. In order for a senator to accomplish something they need to be able build a broad coalition whereas a Governor leads from the top and governs according his/her agenda. If you need further proof of this, simply look at the difference in how Palin and McCain campaigned this year. McCain was much more considerate of the nuances of politic maneuvering while Palin was a red meat candidate pushing a clear agenda.

Furthermore, isn't the ineptitude of executives that has gotten us into the mess that we find ourselves today? What about all the executives driving the markets over the cliff? What about Bush, former governor of Texas, with tons of executive experience both private and public that has driven policy for the last several years? I don't think we need any more executives right now.

I know plenty of people to the right of center that are worried about the socialist thing. Let me say this, Obama is in no way a socialist. Furthermore, with the exception of Bernie Sanders you can not find anybody who explicitly subscribes to that ideology. I think it's an incredibly ridiculous to claim that Democrats as a whole would push such an agenda. While I agree that it is most likely that down the road we may see a slight rise in taxes down the road, this could hardly be seen as a lurch to the socialism. I'd say that it is rather unlikely (0.5% chance) that we will see any substantial change that would take us back to things like long term welfare or federal income tax to their 1970s levels. Not to mention that Obama would be committing political suicide to raise taxes on anybody above the levels that we saw in 90s.

Let me further say, that I am more than willing to give a candidate the benefit of a doubt. While it appears that Obama has done a 180 on a number of issues, I think that overall he is a very pragmatic politician. Everybody seemed very critical of his decision to forgo public financing, but I think that when he saw the potential to outspend his opponent 3-1 in the last few months of the campaign he seized upon it for all the right reasons.

This of course brings me to his "troubling" associations. First of all, when hasn't a politician had troubling associations? Certainly, Ron Paul had them. I don't want to point them out again, but they were there and it's hard to deny them.

Seeing Obama's reaction to the Rev. Wright scandal is telling to me. I think that he handled that issue very well. At first, he confronted the issue honestly and then finally disowned Wright condemning his views. Considering his political upbringing in Chicago, it does not entirely surprise me that he at one time associated with people like Ayers or Wright though I don't think he ever shared their extremist views.

In the end, I think you worries are perhaps a little exaggerated but not necessarily without merit. To be honest, I was rather worried about Bush in 2000 and he turned out to be much worse than I had expected. So, maybe....just maybe....you are right about those worries, but I highly doubt it.
Nov. 10th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
All very good points. It would be disingenuous to say I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and then deny him his "honeymoon". I'm looking forward to the first 100 days plan. And Rahm Emanuel (another Chicago guy) seems a good start, as a fairly centrist guy.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )