Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Decoding Obama

By Taylor Marsh

One of the things that troubles me greatly as everyone knows is Mr. Obama's lack of ideological compass. I've made no secret that I think it is a warning of what could happen. Making deals with Sen. Tom Coburn only makes me more nervous. But his votes as "present" that are now getting so much attention scare the crap out of me. The Chicago Tribune puts it together today in just the right manner.

... .. Obama has defended his "present" votes on abortion-related bills in the Illinois legislature, contending it was part of a strategy fashioned with abortion-rights advocates to help give some Illinois Senate Democrats political cover and to avoid looking harsh by casting "no" votes that would create a re-election risk.

But the Tribune earlier this year found few lawmakers remembered such a strategy and many of those who joined with Obama to vote present were, like him, in politically safe districts. ...

Luckily for Mr. Obama Planned Parenthood NARAL and NOW have come to his defense. It's why I don't give money to these groups. Their "tactics" of encouraging candidates to provide political cover so no one looks "harsh" for supporting a woman's civil rights disgusts me. Besides, when they back people like Al Wynn over a woman like Donna Edwards, or Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont, you can see why they'd also come to Obama's defense. Peas in a pod.

Senate Bill 1661 would have created the "Induced Birth Infant Liability Act" (h/t CapitalFaxblog):

Provides that, if a child is born alive after an induced labor abortion or other abortion, a parent of the child or the public guardian may maintain an action on the child’s behalf for damages…

Obama voted "present" so others would have cover because, after all, can't be too harsh, now can we.

Another bill was SB1662 (h/t CapitalFaxblog):

Defines “born-alive infant” to include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

Barack Obama voted "present on this bill, too, because it can always be killed in committee (which it was); never mind the publicity around it passing even if it never went anywhere. Let's hear it for tactics over principles. Meanwhile, a campaign to pressure the way politicians vote gets a pass through cover of "present."

What about voting your convictions?

Mr. Obama doesn't have any as far as I can tell. Better to duck a vote on Iran, and have it to use as a campaign issue. "Present," not present, it's all the same thing. Tactics rule.

So when I was sent a post Mr. Obama did in 2005 on DailyKos, it just confirmed what I've been writing about all year long while everyone else dozed in a lazy, hypnotized trance to the man from Illinois who can talk a great game, but will lead us only to compromise. If this headline doesn't say it all about Mr. Obama nothing does: Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party.

Ah yes, we must all watch our tone, while we vote "present" in the face of truth at the altar of compromising our Democratic ideals. After all, we might offend the moderates or the conservatives. Heaven forbid.

Flashback to 2005:

... .. A pro-choice Democrat doesn't become anti-choice because he or she isn't absolutely convinced that a twelve-year-old girl should be able to get an operation without a parent being notified. A pro-civil rights Democrat doesn't become complicit in an anti-civil rights agenda because he or she questions the efficacy of certain affirmative action programs. And a pro-union Democrat doesn't become anti-union if he or she makes a determination that on balance, CAFTA will help American workers more than it will harm them. ... ..

This renders me speechless.

I've been very torn over parental notification after talking to dozens of parents, including my husband. However, want to take a guess why a twelve-year-old girl gets pregnant? It's almost always from incest or rape (sometimes combined). This is exactly the person who needs to be able to go around her parents. Oh, and before you even say it, she won't go to a judge for an exception.

But of course, let's all worry about tone. Let's not take a stand and put pressure where it's due. Let's make a deal.

Obama continues and I could swear I see Lieberman smiling:

Or to make the point differently: How can we ask Republican senators to resist pressure from their right wing and vote against flawed appointees like John Bolton, if we engage in similar rhetoric against Democrats who dissent from our own party line? How can we expect Republican moderates who are concerned about the nation's fiscal meltdown to ignore Grover Norquist's threats if we make similar threats to those who buck our party orthodoxy?

Is this guy joking? Republican "moderates" don't join Democrats because of the way we chastise them. They stay loyal to their party and president because if they don't the GOP will bring the house down on their head for daring to stray off of the reservation.

Democrats who believe in that for which we stand take note.

No wonder Obama ducked out on the MoveOn.org vote.

I am not drawing a facile equivalence here between progressive advocacy groups and right-wing advocacy groups. The consequences of their ideas are vastly different. Fighting on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable is not the same as fighting for homophobia and Halliburton. (TM NOTE: That's good to hear.) But to the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, "true" progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive "checklist," then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems. We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted.

Is he talking about the Blue Dog Democrats? Now I so understand why Democrats fail at getting anything the voters demanded done in Congress.

Beyond that, by applying such tests, we are hamstringing our ability to build a majority. We won't be able to transform the country with such a polarized electorate. Because the truth of the matter is this: Most of the issues this country faces are hard. They require tough choices, and they require sacrifice. The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress may have made the problems worse, but they won't go away after President Bush is gone. Unless we are open to new ideas, and not just new packaging, we won't change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy or fiscal policy that calls for serious sacrifice. We won't have the popular support to craft a foreign policy that meets the challenges of globalization or terrorism while avoiding isolationism and protecting civil liberties. We certainly won't have a mandate to overhaul a health care policy that overcomes all the entrenched interests that are the legacy of a jerry-rigged health care system. And we won't have the broad political support, or the effective strategies, required to lift large numbers of our fellow citizens out of numbing poverty.

Hold on.

Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Kiss F.D.R.'s Social Security buh-bye. And really, when you think about it, just because you render a twelve-year-old girl to second class citizen after being molested doesn't mean we can't all get along. We're all still good Democrats. Wink. Wink.

Don't anyone say you weren't warned.

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