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
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.