Authoritarianism, Barack Obama, Elections, Ideologies, News and Current Events, People, Politics

Should Obama Govern from the Center?

Predictably, some folks on the American Right seem in denial that much of anything has changed or is going to change with Tuesday’s election.  You see that happen sometimes when people suffer a stunning setback.  Instead of being able to wrap their minds around the setback, they simply deny anything happened.

For instance, theocon Tony Perkins appeared a bit traumatized when he stated yesterday, “There [is] clearly no mandate to shift the country to the left on social issues.”  On the same day, ultra-right-winger Brent Bozell claimed: “…Barack Obama does not have the mandate to enact the left-wing agenda he wants to enact.”  And other examples of the Right’s stunned denial of reality can be found here.

Along with their absurd rejection of President-elect Obama’s mandate, the Right is advising him to “govern from the center”.  Obama strikes me as an intelligent man, and so I suppose he lacks the foolishness to take their advice.  As explained here, the electorate knew precisely what policies they were voting for on Tuesday, and they voted overwhelmingly for policies that in American politics are considered “leftist”.  So, Obama’s mandate is to implement those policies even though they are considered by many to be left-wing policies.

Yet, there is a far larger and more important reason for Obama to implement the policies he campaigned on rather than seek out the imagined advantages of the political center.  Obama has now gained an opportunity to politically realign the the voting preferences of the American electorate.  In my opinion, that is the real story of Tuesday’s election — and not whether Obama gained a mandate.

If Obama succeeds in favorably realigning the electorate, then the Democratic Party will become the majority party in America.  He has already moved far towards realizing that goal.  It’s anyone’s guess, however, whether the millions who voted for him in presidential election will now become loyal Democrats.  So the question is, what might incline them to become loyal Democrats?

I don’t think Obama will convert many people to the Democratic Party by discussing ideology with them.  There are relatively few Americans who really give a damn about ideology.  Most of us have as much use for it as we have for a college course in the philosophy of politics.  And that seems to be true despite the fact our right-wing Authoritarian minority is hugely movtivated by ideology.  But those folks just aren’t typical of most Americans.

Overall, Americans are a pragmatic people.  They don’t want to know whether something is right, left or center — they want to know how and whether it works.  For instance, abstinence only sex education is the ideological policy, and it doesn’t work.  Comprehensive sex education is the pragmatic policy, and it does work.  Guess which policy the polls indicate a majority of Americans favor?  Most Americans do not — and will not — care whether Obama’s policies are ideologically pure.  Instead, they will want policies that work.  And work to solve the problems that concern them.

Consequently, if Obama succeeds in realigning the electorate, it will not be because he chooses the “correct” ideology to govern by, but because he chooses to govern pragmatically.  The silly advice to “govern from the center” will only result in disaster if it means in practice adopting policies that don’t work well enough to impress the voters. So in sum, Obama’s best chance to realign the electorate is to successfully implement policies that work, regardless of their ideological label, to solve the problems facing us.  If he manages that, the American people will thumb their noses at ideological purity and back him all the way.

13 thoughts on “Should Obama Govern from the Center?”

  1. I think Dana Hunter said it beautifully:

    “Yes. Right. Well, do expect Republicons and their favorite pundits to spend the next several weeks and years attempting to rewrite history, claiming that Obama won as a conservative although they swore he ran as a communist radical liberal Europe-loving America-hating elitist lefty etc. etc. They’re so cute when they try to change reality, aren’t they?”


  2. “They don’t want to know whether something is right, left or center — they want to know how and whether it works”

    True. Which is, incidentally, why I consider myself left of center. Leftist ideology seems to have practicality on its side (most of time at least…the jury is still out when it comes to military affairs).


  3. If the Republicans just barely manage to steal an election, they call it a mandate. Obama takes a clear majority of the popular vote and kills in the electoral vote, and that’s not a mandate?

    I can’t believe anybody still pays attention to the likes of Bozell and Perkins.

    Obama will govern pretty much from the center, because Obama is pretty much a centrist. Of course, that *will* look like a radically far-left position to people like Bozell and Perkins, who lost all perspective and sense of reality years ago.


  4. “I can’t believe anybody still pays attention to the likes of Bozell and Perkins.”

    When guys (or gals! *cough* Coultergeist *cough* Malkin *cough*) like them do TV appearances, I’d be inclined to dub in a laugh track.

    – M. \”/


  5. Of course Obama will govern from the center. Despite attempts to portray him as an “extreme liberal”, his record has been consistently center-right, like most members of the Democratic party in the era of the “New Democrats”.


  6. @ George: I agree! Dana’s point is well made!

    @ AS: I agree with you that is true enough of Leftist ideology nowadays. I can see it changing and the Left loosing touch with reality at some point in the future, but for now they do seem to have the greater realism.

    @ EarthlingBlues: Very astute! Obama will indeed look like the Radical Left to the likes of Bozell and Perkins. Somehow, that makes me happy.

    @ Meowlin: I’ve never thought of using a laugh track on those gals, but now that you mention the idea, it seems natural to do it!

    @ Kimchi: Yes, things are never as they are portrayed by one’s enemies. In European terms, Obama is right of center.


  7. The “center” is where you govern from if you lack the courage to actually change anything. I hope Mr. Obama has the stones to act on his theme of “change.” I doubt it, but I’m foolish enough to hope.


  8. “I can see it changing and the Left loosing touch with reality at some point in the future”

    Well, now that the left is in a position of power, that seems to be the prime time to abandon principles as well as your grasp on reality. I mean, if the fate of the right is any indication, of course.


  9. @ Twoblueday: Welcome to the blog! And thank you so much for your kind words! I agree with your desire to see Obama implement the changes he promised. That was a big factor in my voting for him. I will be quite disappointed if he does not.

    @ AS: I fear you and I — cynical as we might sound — could be right.


  10. I think one problem is the love of the status quo in voting. For example, “I’m a Democrat”…pull the lever. …the same “type” is elected. Doesn’t “think outside the box” for real change…change to the system itself. I just posted on this; if you are interested, pls have a look.


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