Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Idealism vs. Realism

I have been reading many different writers’ laments about Barack Obama and his charge to the center lately. The writers question Senator Obama’s stances on capital punishment for sex offenders, amnesty for telecommunication companies that helped the government eavesdrop illegally on American citizens, and the Supreme Court’s recent second amendment decision, to name just a few of the bones of contention.
I understand the disappointment these writers are giving vent to; I can even commiserate with them on some of his shifts. But I refuse to share in their disapproval of the Senator from Illinois.
The past eight years have been an unmitigated national disaster. President Bush has set the bar to a new low for presidential performance. But we need to remember that George Bush was already four years into his catastrophic tenure when he was re-elected in 2004. He managed to defeat John Kerry not because of the strength of his record, the force of his intellect, or the power of his personality on the campaign trail. He managed to defeat John Kerry because John Kerry ran a god-awful campaign.
Barack Obama is a smart man and a skilled campaigner. He used his organizational strength and his eloquence to defeat a heavily favored Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. He knows what he is doing. It is not the Democratic base that is going to win the general election for Senator Obama. It is the large, increasingly nervous and frustrated center that will give him the landslide he will most surely earn in November.
To reach that large group of voters in the middle, Barack Obama must spend some time emphasizing those positions of his that are more moderate. To complain about his tack to the middle is to place ideological purity above electoral success. There will be time for idealism when President Obama is sworn in on January 20, 2009. First, he needs to win the election, and the way he will do that is not by preaching to the choir but instead by proselytizing the unconverted.

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