One of the statements coming out of Washington from both sides of the aisle is that Barack Obama will govern from the Center. Centrist governance will be the order of the day according to none other than Speaker Pelosi. The appointment of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff is cited as proof of centrism. The media is saying that President-Elect Obama will have to bravely stand against the left wing and hold them in line.
And yet it seems to be political nonsense. None of these commentators tell us what Congress will want that Barack Obama will not give them. Would President Obama really veto extreme Congressional legislation? History says no. When George W. Bush vetoed an Embryonic Stem Cell Research bill in 2006, it was the first time a President vetoed a bill with his party in control of both houses of Congress since the Carter Administration. In Bush’s case, he was vetoing a bill that a big part of his base opposed. Is Obama really ready to repeatedly cross that line and tick off his party’s base?
As for Congressman Emanuel, he can be said to be a pragmatist, but not really a centrist. Exhibit A: his lifetime 13% ACU Rating, which places him away from the fringe party, but hardly in the center of the political spectrum.
By saying “Obama will govern from the center,” what liberals really mean is that Obama will try to define his legislation as centrist. My favorite axiom from the liberal blogosphere is, “Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle.”
The political spectrum is an always shifting, and that is true of the center. Thirty years ago, the idea that we need to create a relationship called a Civil Union for homosexuals who wanted to marry was so far out there it would torpedo the political career of anyone outside of San Francisco who advocated it. Fifteen years ago, it would be considered nutty political correctness. Today, it’s called centrist.
While the creation of several departments were leftwing boondoggles originally, it is now considered centrist to support their maintenance. Yes, centrism demands that we keep a federal Department of Education that does nothing for education, while draining tens of billions of dollars from the treasury. Who knows, in twenty years, only members of the John Birch Society may favor eliminating the Department of Peace.
Liberals, rest assured that President Obama will push as much liberal legislation through Congress as he can. He is not a stupid man. Under Bush, he’s seen what happens when you disappoint the people who give money to you and work for your campaigns. The Left’s Netroots has bankrolled the election of many Democrats, including quite a few Blue Dogs. However, their patience has been tested these past two years. The Blue Dogs have been nicknamed “The Bush Dogs” by Matt Stoller of Open Left. A truly moderate Democratic Leadership Council Presidency will leave many liberals asking, “Dude, where’s my revolution?”
Instead what we’ll see is President Obama and Congressional Democrats pushing liberal ideas by trying to package them as “centrist.” The job of conservatives is to call a spade a spade and to fight the new Administration when it’s wrong, and realize the nature of the battle they’re in.