Sen. Barack Obama campaigns on an extremely attractive message of pluralist political change, but do his policies match the �change� abstractly presented in his campaign speeches? The answer appears to be no.
In fact, if we look at his record � the policies he has actively supported, since action is the ultimate test of belief, this is how we must define what he would support as president � we see far more similarities to the policy partisanship of the last eight years than differences. We find that Mr. Obama is an inclusive bipartisan in speech, but an exclusive liberal partisan when it comes to policy. Mr. Obama frequently claims that he wants to change from a blue state/red state mentality to seeing �purple.� But when it comes to policy, his �uniting bipartisanship� is lacking.
�Some support Mr. Obama for his consistent legislative record as a liberal Democrat, others, for his faculty of judgment. This article is not for those people. Instead, this article is for those who are tempted to vote for Mr. Obama this November on the premise that he will enact uniting bipartisan changes in policy, when his record strongly suggests otherwise.
�From the perspective of policy, Mr. Obama’s presidency would not bring unifying change, but divisive policy partisanship similar to that of the last eight years � albeit from the opposite side of the political spectrum. In fact, even compared to the partisanship of conservative Sen. John McCain � who agrees with President Bush on a slew of issues � Mr. Obama’s policy record appears far from being �purple.�
�To use Sen. McCain as a litmus test for Mr. Obama’s policy bipartisanship we must first ask: How often has he controversially bucked his own party’s rank-and-file to support a bipartisan policy he believed was for the good of the country? The answer: never.
Next, we must question: How often has Mr. McCain done this? The answer: certainly enough times to infuriate many conservatives.
Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama did not partake in the Gang of 14’s bipartisan deal on judges while Mr. McCain was one of the Gang’s leaders. Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never had his own Kennedy-McCain piece of legislation on immigration or any other issue that infuriated his base. Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never had his anti-partisan equivalent to McCain’s policy stand against torture.
Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never lambasted the Secretary of Defense of his party’s own presidential administration for chronic incompetence. Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never voted for environmental legislation that angered his fellow party members. Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never cussed at people in his own party for sending loads of pork to their home district and state. Unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama has never principally voted against subsides for ethanol, even when it alienated members of his own party in politically significant Iowa.
Perhaps, however, it is unfair to evaluate Mr. Obama’s policy record solely from his time in the Senate. Unlike Mr. McCain, he has never been a Senate committee chair; conceivably, he was never in a position of influence to participate in things like the Gang of 14. Perhaps, Mr. Obama as the presidential candidate has acted more daringly.
Entitlements are a great issue for Mr. Obama to show some bipartisan bravery, maybe here we find Mr. Obama the uniter. For better or for worse, the answer is still no. Mr. Obama’s own campaign website states he does not even �believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age [for Social Security].� Review his campaign’s other positions and the answers are no different.
So where are the liberals Mr. Obama has infuriated in taking uniting bipartisan stances? Where is the smoking gun? If he doesn’t appear purple on anything, including his campaign platform, then where is he purple on policy? It seems that like WMDs in Iraq, Mr. Obama’s uniting policies do not exist.
Even compared to the likely GOP nominee, Mr. McCain � and even including Mr. McCain’s partisan moves to the right on tax cuts, campaign finance and immigration � Mr. Obama’s policies are far from being purple. Instead, they are stained by a deep shade of partisan blue.
Now, I am not saying bipartisanship is inherently good or that contemporary American liberalism is evil. There are plenty of great reasons to dislike bipartisanship and to love modern day American liberalism as a political ideology. What I am saying is that we are completely fooling ourselves if we call Barack Obama a bipartisan uniter � and not a divider � when his voting record and campaign positions suggest otherwise.
Thus, of all the possible good reasons to vote for Mr. Obama this November, his �uniting policies� should not be one of them.
When it comes to policy, Mr. Obama’s lack of �bipartisan unity� appears unlikely to change.
David Lapidus ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics and mathematics.