Friday, December 21, 2007

Obama's Theory of Change

Mark Schmitt offers his thoughts on Krugman's attack on Obama's inclusive approach, placing the issue within the broader question of who has the right "theory of change." At the crux of it, he argues that while Krugman's diagnosis is correct, Obama's prescription for change is what the ailing nation needs:

Paul Krugman weighed in Monday, mostly on the side of Edwards against Obama's "naive" expectation that by bringing all parties around a table, one could solve problems.

As an observer of politics, and commenter on it, I almost entirely share Krugman's and Edwards' diagnoses. I appreciate the conflictual nature of politics. I don't think there's some cross-partisan truth; I understand that the Republican conservatives are intractable. I know those advantaged by the current structure of power are determined to preserve it, and the well-funded campaign to destroy any possibility of progressive governance will be as intantaneous and intense as anything in 1993.


But let's take a slightly different angle on the charge that Obama is "naïve" about power and partisanship. Suppose you were as non-naïve about it as I am -- but your job wasn't writing about politics, it was running for president? What should you do? In that case, your responsibility is not merely to describe the situation exactly, but to find a way to subvert it. In other words, perhaps we are being too literal in believing that "hope" and bipartisanship are things that Obama naively believes are present and possible, when in fact they are a tactic, a method of subverting and breaking the unified conservative power structure. Claiming the mantle of bipartisanship and national unity, and defining the problem to be solved (e.g. universal health care) puts one in a position of strength, and Republicans would defect from that position at their own risk. The public, and younger voters in particular, seem to want an end to partisanship and conflictual politics, and an administration that came in with that premise (an option not available to Senator Clinton), would have a tremendous advantage, at least for a moment.
It's important to note that this doesn't imply any lack of sincerity on Obama's part. It's probably the case that Obama recognizes that the Republicans in power are vicious, and that he himself is philosophically and temperamentally best suited to an inclusive let's-all-come-together campaign, which he also believes is tactically the best approach.

1 comment:

Yuri said...

Incredible naïveté! Right… conservative republicans will be fazed by facts, by consensus or maybe by Obama’s oversized ego. The majority of the people want out of Iraq, an even greater majority support the SCHIP program, a majority opposed Clinton impeachment, did that ever deterred the GOP? What the nation needs is a greater progressive majority which either Hillary or Obama will be utterly unable to produce. I have some issues with Edwards but at this point he offers the best opportunity in decades to move the country in a progressive way. The only way to accomplish something in the new session of congress is to get as close as possible to 60 seats in the senate. There is a populist tide in the country and anger against a corrupt and criminal administration, Hillary would give a demoralized and for now underfunded GOP a reason to rally around and Obama will dilute the populist message with his timidity (anybody said “present”) Additionally, are you deluded enough to believe that Obama will win any southern states or that he would defeat McCain in the Sunbelt?