The Middle Way

I say there is a vast middle way between brainless robo-cheerleading for the Obama Administration and declaring that the Obama Administration already has sold out progressive values and will be no better than a third Clinton term. I agree with Jane H. and John A. (objecting to Steve Hildebrand) that there are reasons to express concern about some of Obama’s cabinet choices.

The blogosphere in particular will, I hope, maintain some objective distance from the Obama Administration. This is not just to remind Obama of what we expect from him. The Right Blogosphere has been little more than cheerleaders and water-carriers for the GOP, and as a result they have no influence in the party at all.

My goal from the beginning was not to elect Democrats but to restore progressivism to America’s governing process. Electing Democrats is a means, not an end. We all need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.

I also agree with David Sirota

I counsel not fretting too much yet. While there is truth to the notion that “personnel is policy,” crises can make radicals out of former Establishmentarians, and the president-elect’s initial declarations imply a boldly progressive agenda. “Remember, Franklin Roosevelt gave no evidence in his prior career that he would lead the dramatic sea change in American politics that he led,” says historian Eric Rauchway.

Anyone who knows with certainty what the Obama cabinet will do is a fool. There are, to recall a former Secretary of Defense — known unknowns. These include how the cabinet choices will work with President Obama and what he will direct them to do. There are also unknown unknowns — crises and opportunities that haven’t unfolded yet.

See also Bill Berkowitz.

8 thoughts on “The Middle Way

  1. I think the problem is that Obama ran a whole campaign as an agent of change. Therefore a whole lot of people expect a whole lot from him.

    I was bothered by his whole “vote for me, I’ll change the world” campaign because he is a centrist at best (in my view).

    That being said, I’m perfectly willing to wait & see what happens when he, you know, is actually sworn in …

  2. We, and he, have NO choice.
    Change will come…
    He has already put together a pretty good team. Fast. Do I like and agree with all of his choices? Of course not. But sometimes you change things from within. You need people with experience in their respective areas to initiate changes.
    I think we all need to give the not-yet President some time. And time WILL tell…
    All I cn say is that for the first time in many, many years, I feel optimistic. I’m unemployed for the first time in 10 years, I’m packing and moving back to upstate NY. Despite being unemployed in the worst Recession/Depression in almost 80 years, I’m very optimistic! 🙂

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot about this same question lately after reasong “Obama: In the Irony Free Zone” by Joan Didion in the New York Review of Books.

    She claims that irony is now out, innocence is in even when it seems ignorant, partisanship can be expressed as consumerism (I’m for Obama branded diapers?) and the word “transformational” sticks hard in her throat. She suggests that transformational and resistance to war might best be reserved, not for our current situation but rather for things like widespread pushback during a war with a draft. She amusingly observes how the 60’s are evoked by people who had not lived that era.

    Over the last eight years I railed at the inability of so many “to know when they don’t know” and balk at voting for a smart person over someone with whom they’d feel comfortable having a drink. Now Frank Rich cites examples of when best and brightest didn’t to so well for the rest of us.

    Never had I thought that the seed crystals of the frame that might subsume the framing of the neocon blither of the last eight years might sound as ridiculous and that from which I’d hope to be delivered.

    For myself at least something I’ve come to identify as realism is setting in and my zone is no longer irony free. Rubin , neck deep in the problems that have led to economic meltdown, is a troubling appointment to me so I trust, suspecting that Obama is smarter than I and certainly more motivated. So I trust but retain my cynicism.

    Good point you make here. It is so easy to make a good story out of “all those Obama supporters” without having any real idea of the breakdown amongst those who supported and conintue to support him. Without full understanding political opinion and commentart wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as it is.

  4. In the 60s, we had an expression: Give Peace a chance. I think that should apply to Obama. Give the guy a chance before you start demonizing him. Set aside the judgment until he has been in office and able to do the country’s business. I’m not crazy about some of his choices; but, I know from my working life that if you do not have the people you want and trust, you can’t do your job. No one is going to be happy with ALL his selections. The proof of the pudding will be in what he accomplishes within a reasonable amount of time. I find Maha’s criticism to mostly costructive which is why I like this website. But, the criticism that is just so some one can criticize is really very tiresome. We can only mark time between now and January 20, 2009; and, I plan to keep that time happy and optimistic.

  5. Change is a process – not a final destination. We had a LOT of change over the last 8 years. I never thought I would see a president more destructive of the democratic process than Tricky Dick. Undoubtably, we are going to trend (I wish I couold underline the word trend.) to the center. Assuming that, we are talking about a complete change in direction and movement twoards the Left. Suppose that’s a trend; movement to the LEFT, and Obama has a succesful 2nd term and is succeeded by an even MORE progressive Democrat. People, that beats the HELL out of jumping so far Left in the first term that we freal out voters in the center & get Palin elected in 2012.

    There’s a great story about FDR who was presented with a progressive plan by an aide or cabinet memeber, who then asked for FDRs endorsement. The sage president reportedly said “That’s a great plan; now make me do it!” Rather than see this election as a single event which should must produce progressive policy, see it as a process – a trend – and our function to pave the way for each phase of more progressive government.

  6. First, I don’t see Obama running as “a third Clinton term”

    Second, a “third Clinton term” would be fairly good, and far better than what we’ve been living through.

    Third, Obama ran as an agent of change, but change is from what is, not necessarily from whatever happened back when; there was a Bush administration, you know, no matter how hard the rightwing has been trying to tell us there wasn’t.

  7. I’m with QrazyQat, a “third Clinton term” would be change I can believe in — actual progressive policies would tickle me silly. Anyone who thinks Obama doesn’t represent “change” is ignoring last eight years.

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