Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Obama, Liberalism and Personal Responsibility
Two quick thoughts between posts over at WPR. First of all, I've read that Obama is the most liberal Democrat to be elected president since. . . LBJ? FDR? Sure. But there's something very intriguing about the emphasis he puts on personal responsibility and the way in which he includes the American people's contribution to the hard work to come. I read an analysis of American strategic culture recently that argued that in order for Americans to support a war, the cause has to be a crusade, and the mobilization demanded of them total. LBJ failed to maintain public opinion for the Vietnam War because neither criterion applied. And President Bush has failed to maintain support for the Iraq War because while he has sold the war as a crusade, the only mobilization he demanded of Americans was a shopping spree at the local mall. Obama, by contrast, seems to be putting America on wartime footing, across the board, domestically and abroad. That's usually when America comes through. But it's also a different sort of liberalism than conservatives are used to decrying, which will make Obama's job easier -- and conservatives' tougher -- than some have suggested.
On the other hand, by handing the GOP its ass on a platter, Obama has effectively disarmed the national security bogeyman (the myth that the Democrats can't be trusted with the nation's security), whether or not national security was the deciding factor of the election. That, in turn, will liberate the GOP from its post-9/11 impulse to run as the lovechild of a Rambo-Terminator ménage à trois with Sigourney Weaver circa Alien 3, and free its candidates from situating themselves somewhere to the right of Augusto Pinochet. That, by the way, could easily apply globally, since an Obama presidency that fails to live up to the GOP's caricatures of it (Socialism? Are you f**king kidding me?) could in turn free the GOP from the need to live up to the caricature of itself that it's become in the past eight years. So while many are predicting a more radicalized GOP, it's possible that four years from now, the reverse will be true. Sure, they will have no real standard bearer, and most of their elected representatives that remain have slanted towards the lunatic fringe of the party. But a party free of incumbents is a party freed of obligations, promises to keep and doctrinal discipline to uphold. The Democratic party came out of left field in 2006 with a new crop of conservative red state representatives, very much due to Bush's failures of the previous six years, but also its own. There's no reason the GOP can't do the same.