Transformation or just more triangulation?

December 19th, 2008 – 9:50 pm

Glenn Greenwald hits the nail on the head yet again, reminding those who have apparently forgotten the Clinton years (and ignored the Democrats in Congress during the Bush years) that Obama’s whole post-partisan shtick is hardly new:

Andrew’s argument here is the one that Obama loyalists generally are making:    yes, what Obama is doing might appear to be exactly the same as what Democrats have been doing since forever — the accommodationist embrace of the Right, the effort to establish centrist credentials by scorning the Left, running away from cultural issues for fear of being depicted as amoral radicals, surrounding oneself with establishment and conservative figures, etc. etc. (Bill Clinton also had a Republican Defense Secretary).  Yes, that may look exactly like what the capitulating Bush-era Democrats and the triangulating Bill “the Third Way!” Clinton spent years and years and years doing.

But this time, say Obama supporters, everything will be different.  This time, it’s all being done for different — for more noble — purposes.  When Obama does it, it’s not merely a cynical political calculation the way it was when Dick Morris in the 1990s and Rahm Emanuel this decade did it.  Instead, in Obama’s hands, it’s a master strategy for bringing the country together and transforming politics — all to enable Obama to fulfill his authentically-issued promises and achieve his progressive goals.

As I said, it’s certainly possible that will be true — like many people, I hope it is — but I would also hope, particularly in light of how familiar this strategizing seems, that people will demand some actual proof before believing in such lavish claims of transformative and transcendent change.  People are suspicious of this sort of Democratic maneuvering precisely because they’ve seen it so many times in the past and know how it ends.  It seems perfectly rational not to trust it until there is evidence that warrants that trust.

I, too, have some hope that what Obama seems to be intending to do is indeed going to be transformative, but until there’s actual proof, I remain cynical. In light of some of the incoming administration’s recent moves, various statements from the Senate Republicans, and the way the traditional media seems to want to turn the Blagojevich scandal into Obama’s very own Whitewater, I’m finding it hard to believe that it can work, no matter how hard Obama might like it to be otherwise.

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