Monday, January 19, 2009

Trouble Ahead For Obama - On the Left

I get the distinct impression that many people bought Barack Obama’s best selling book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ for display purposes only. The perception is that Obama is very left wing, but in reading his book I see him as far more moderate and centrist. His victory wasn’t so much a triumph over John McCain, it was more a victory against George W. Bush. The problem is that Dubya had entrenched himself so far to the right that even someone like Ronald Reagan would have been seen as a leftist.

Left and right are relative terms in politics, and when you get to the extreme fringes the two collide into something called fascism. A dictatorship is a dictatorship, regardless of whether it’s left or right wing. Obama’s book talked about bridging the gaps, about finding common ground, a need for give and take. But if there’s one thing extremists hate, its compromise. The left often views their politics as having intellectual superiority, and thus any dilution is a sell out to small mindedness, and unforgivable.

Cracks in Obama’s support are already beginning to show with his selection of Pastor Rick Warren for the swearing in ceremony. Rick Warren is very much a social conservative, one who was a major player in the fight to have marriage rights rescinded for same sex couples in California. Members of the Gay and Lesbian communities have responded in outrage, saying this isn’t the ‘change’ they were looking for.

But if people were paying attention they shouldn’t be surprised, this is exactly the type of change Obama has talked endlessly about bringing to America. You don’t unify a nation by entrenching yourself with one group and punishing the other, that was GW’s method. Obama’s choice of Pastor Warren for the invocation is a brilliant stroke, it’s a hand reached out to those on the extreme right that says, “I’m your President too, let’s work together and see if we can work together and build a consensus that a majority of people can agree to.” On same-sex marriage Obama has already staked out a centrist position, saying he favours ‘civil unions’ as opposed to the more traditional term of marriage.

Obama’s success or failure as a President will likely be determined by how far he can reach out to the right without being kicked in the backside by those on the left. Obama hasn’t done or said anything to indicate he’s going to lurch the US to the far left, rather he wants to pull the country from the extreme right back to the centre.

Its not going to be an easy chore, and Obama will need all the help he can get from moderate Democrats to achieve success. It means that many who view their positions as absolutely right will have to adopt a more conciliatory stance. It won't be easy, as many are looking for retribution after 8 years of Republican Neo-Conservative dominance.

The soon to be President had better succeed. The last thing the United States (and the western world) needs is the Americans ripping the country apart along political lines of left and right. With Obama’s intelligence, oratory and charisma there isn’t likely a better person for the task at hand. The tough economic times we’re experiencing, with even more hardship on the way, will be the ultimate litmus test.

Can Americans pull together, or will they remain a house divided??

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