Let the pre-criminations begin! Clive Crook asks why on earth Obama ceded the center to Mitt Romney by running a class-warfare-based campaign. Crook sees Obama as a centrist mysteriously cowed by his party’s leftist base. I think we can clear this mystery up. Obama ran a leftist class-warfare campaign because…well, he’s a leftist class-warrior.
I’ve been struck by commentators on both right and left treating Obama’s leftist campaign as a matter of strict necessity. For a couple of years, conventional wisdom has held that the weak economy left Obama little choice but to turn this into a base election. Then conventional wisdom was upended by the conventions. Bill Clinton’s questionable but effective attempts to exonerate Obama from economic blame could easily have been combined with a centrist campaign–and presidency. Obama’s class-warfare campaign was a choice, not a necessity. But to see that is to suggest that Obama is a leftist by conviction, and many have been reluctant to do that.
Remember when Obama told Diane Sawyer he’d rather be “a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president”? That was a swipe at Clinton, Obama’s lifelong model of what-not-to-do. In that same interview, Obama explained that he didn’t want to go “small bore” just to avoid controversy and secure re-election. That’s what Clinton did, and that’s what Obama wants to avoid. The president is willing to take significant political risks for a shot at transforming America in a second term. Re-election flowing out of a class-warfare-based campaign would further that goal. Is it so hard to believe that Obama means it when he runs left? After all, he was the most liberal senator before he became president. So where’s the mystery? The real mystery is our refusal to see what’s staring us in the face.
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