In the primary fight between Clinton and Obama, the Illinois senator somehow managed to do two contradictory things at once. He ran to the left of Clinton on virtually every issue, all the while maintaining his candidacy as the hope of "post-partisanship."
The hard left fawned on Obama as he embraced all of their issues, while the middle swooned over his talk of hope and change. He was the ethical crusader. One who would fight for all the issues that those on the left had been pressing for, while doing it in a nice, principled way that would bring the nation together.
Then a funny thing happened, Obama become the Democratic nominee, no longer had Clinton as his foil and had to appeal to voters beyond the Democratic party. Suddenly the paradigm of principles has become the poster boy for pragmatism.
Remember during the Democratic primary? I know that was such a long time ago, but try to remember when Obama supporters said they were following him because he was principled and ethical. He wasn’t a power hungry political opportunist like the Clintons. He didn’t do triangulations. Obama was a man of principles, who stood by what he believed and did so with the highest ethical standards.
That’s why you Obama voters said you voted for him, remember? You said that he and Hillary were almost identical on the issues. The difference there was negligible, but Obama would not govern based on polls. He wouldn’t see which way the wind was blowing before he made a decision. Hope and change. Principles and ethics. These were what drove Obama the man, the candidate and his followers.
Something changed since he became the presumptive Democratic candidate, not just in Obama’s public stances, but in his supporters. Those that said they were supporting Obama because of his ethics, his principles, his desire to work with the other side of the aisle, have changed their tune. Now, his ever changing, evolving positions are of no concern, after all, "he’s better than the Republicans" and "he should do whatever it takes to beat them." That’s a bit of a transition from hope and change, principles and ethics wouldn’t you say?
Of course, you can just argue that this is just the ramblings of a GOP cheerleader, a biased Pro-McCain voice trying to attack Obama on a "distraction from the real issues (whatever they may be)." But what about liberal columnist like Bob Herbert who writes this about Obama’s sudden shifts:
Only an idiot would think or hope that a politician going through
the crucible of a presidential campaign could hold fast to every
position, steer clear of the stumbling blocks of nuance and never make
a mistake. But Barack Obama went out of his way to create the
impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest,
less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most.
You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of “is” is.
This is why so many of Senator Obama’s strongest supporters are uneasy,
upset, dismayed and even angry at the candidate who is now emerging in
the bright light of summer.
Herbert goes so far as to throw Clinton’s "is" line onto Obama. He worries that Obama is not just tacking toward the center, but he’s "lurching right when it suits him, and he’s zigging with … reckless abandon." The NYT columnist then lists some of Obama’s more recent high profile flips and flops and concludes:
He seems to believe that his shifts and twists and clever panders —
as opposed to bold, principled leadership on important matters — will
entice large numbers of independent and conservative voters to climb
off the fence and run into his yard.
Maybe. But that’s a very
dangerous game for a man who first turned voters on by presenting
himself as someone who was different, who wouldn’t engage in the
terminal emptiness of politics as usual.
Herbert’s not the only one who are becoming troubling with many of Obama’s recent statements. Conservative outposts like the Huffington Post, The New Republic and Democratic Underground have begun wondering if Obama’s position on Iraq has become more … nuanced.
I don’t blame Sen. Obama for many of the
shifts enhancements changes steady, always solid, principled political positions he has voiced recently, but I wonder if his followers are becoming less and less enthused with the Obama of the general campaign, who is bearing less and less resemblance to the Obama of the primary.
He leaves his supporters in a bad position, they can find another candidate (probably third party), take the route of Herbert, HuffPo, TNR, DU and even the NY Times editorial board – give him a nice stern talking to while keeping their comfy seat on the bandwagon, or they can refuse to remove the hope-colored glasses and spin his ever evolving statements as consistent principles.
As much as it is going to pain me to vote for McCain in November, I’m starting to wonder if those on the left might be in the same boat as me. Are they going to begin viewing their choice as just as lackluster as those on the right? I guess it depends on how much harder the wind blows between now and November, not to mention what we really mean when we say "is."