Elected liberals, govern liberally
The pressure is already building to get Obama to govern from the center or even, god forbid, the center-right. We shouldn’t be surprised by this—fish gotta swim, and pundits gotta stall our country’s progress with hand-wringing. The Obama administration should not listen to these nags. All real evidence points to the fact that this moment was when the country finally began to set aside the divisive politics of the right and move towards a more liberal country, with a little less “hate your neighbor” and a little more sharing. Now, we have a long way to go—Prop 8’s narrow win shows that. (Though I have some theories that I’ll share with you in next week’s podcast about why I’m not so sure it’s a 100% proof that the voters of California are total bigots.) Obama needs to be an unabashed liberal, because that was what he was elected to be. I have my evidence.
1) The amount of money the little guy gave to the campaign. I myself am hostile to giving to campaigns, because I feel like it’s gambling. But with the Obama campaign, he built a huge war chest with $25 here, $50 there. People were motivated to give what they could not because they wanted the same old bullshit, but because they want something new. Something liberal.
2) What gets demonized as “liberal” or even “socialist” is just reasonable, or even overly cautious at this point. Take a gander at Obama’s health care plan. You know the one that we keep hear is “socialism”? A non-hysterical reading shows that it’s just common sense, based on the assumption that health care should go to people who need it. It’s actually not spectacularly different from our understanding of health care now, which is that you pay in and take out as needed. Just the difference is that everyone has a right to buy in, and you aren’t subject to the whims of health insurance companies. I just beg the idealists who refuse to support baby steps not to hold out support until we get national health care. Why? For purely selfish reasons. I want to buy this health care. National health care sounds nice, but impossible, and in the meantime, ordinary people like me who don’t have employer-provided health care could really use this alternative.
3) The diversity of the Obama coalition, and the fact that they voted for him believing that he was a huge liberal. By Election Day, there wasn’t an Obama voter who wasn’t familiar with the accusations that he was a leftist, and while few of us believed it, most of us believed he is a liberal. And we voted for him anyway. And it’s a diverse cross-section of the country, as John B. Judis notes here. This is not about some small special interest, but a genuine show of the will of the people.
4) The dancing in the streets. Americans haven’t done that since 1945, when the war ended. (Ruth Rosen noted this, but I don’t have a link that works.) People don’t do that for moderation or the same old business. They do that because they think they’ve seen a dramatic change in the world they live in. They do that because they believe things are about to dramatically change.
5) The huge sweep for Democrats. Even if you can convince yourself that a blowout election for a Democratic President somehow means the country is “centrist”, you can’t deny that the huge majorities in the House and the Senate are a big indicator that Americans want Democrats. They don’t want a stalemate. They want progress.
Please don’t fail the public that elected you, Democrats. Or else you will see yourselves tossed on your asses in 2010.