obama the bridge?

So Obama moved to the center. Or did he? Trey Ellis thinks he's been there all along. Arianna Huffington goes with the perception that he's steering a middle course, and labels it a loser move. And then there's the news that Obama would continue with Bush's faith-based initiatives, albeit with tweaks.

"I get tagged as being on the left and, when I simply describe what has been my position consistently, then suddenly people act surprised," he is quoted as saying. "But there hasn't been substantial shifts there."
And he's right. That speech to AIPAC, those comments on Iran...all of these were spots to tarnish his otherwise shiny oh-so-so-liberal liberalness. But let's me be honest: Obama's no Dennis Kucinich, and he never was. Obama, like Clinton, was always an establishment candidate, never putting forth ideas like a Kucinich or a Nader, never really dealing with the unspoken structural problems of American politics, but adhering to those issues that differentiate Democracts from Republicans. (For example, a Democrat won't overturn Roe V Wade, or ban gay marriage, or privatize social security.) From a marketing standpoint, there's no surprise that his message may have changed with his audience. With the primaries over, he moves from core Democrats to the general population. While the way he talks offers an inspirational vision of trans-partisan politics, in practice this means that, by definition, he'll sit on the big fat bulge in the middle of the bell curve to offer something to everybody instead of the dipping into either end and alienating everyone else. You just can't be a bridge without a foot on both sides of the gap. This willingness to address issues of concern to Christian Evangelicals and the "right" is not necessarily a betrayal of the dedicated left, but quite possibly the mark of someone who aims to build consensus, however imperfect.

Having said that, Obama's desirability as presidential candidate remains relative. He didn't run an odious, intellectually dishonest campaign like Clinton. He's not McCain. His passionate talk of hope and change is talk we need to here, because we do need hope and change, regardless of whether he is able to deliver that change. He espouses, as I mentioned, the standard Democratic Party values. He represents the establishment in the positive, as opposed to the corrupted, malevolent establishment represented by Bush and McCain. And while a positive establishment isn't the reinvention that Kucinich or Nader represents, it's still better than the alternative.

In the end, the real test will be what he does when he's president, and how the people hold him accountable.

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