ELIZABETHTOWN, PA — In a recent comment, "Panderer in Chief," GOP columnist Jonah Goldberg accuses President Obama of "pandering" to his base. Apparently the chief executive has played to his leftwing electorate in such a way as to keep him from becoming a true centrist. To make matters worse, Obama has been doing this "pandering" after having run for president twice as someone who was concerned with all Americans.
Goldberg has observed a flaw in Obama that I never noticed — and indeed one that I still can't find. If Obama ran for president as a centrist or moderate, I'm amazed to learn about it. By 2008 he had accumulated the most leftist voting record in the U.S. Senate, even ahead of the leftist records of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Thinking that people voted for Obama because of his moderateness is like imagining that those who voted for Communists in the past were interested in saving world capitalism.
If Obama ran for president as a centrist or moderate, I'm amazed to learn about it. By 2008 he had accumulated the most leftist voting record in the U.S. Senate, even ahead of the leftist records of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
||I never bought the argument that Americans voted for Obama because he was half-black. There have been fully black candidates who were Republicans and who if elected would have been the first members of their race to have held the offices for which they ran. But neither a majority of whites nor more than a fraction of blacks supported them.
Presumably Obama's leftist politics, which was there for all to see, had something to do with why people gave him their votes.
This brings me to a larger problem with the "Obama fooled us" rhetoric that has been taken over by the GOP press. It's fake from beginning to end. No one, to my knowledge, voted for Obama who wasn't a true believer or who wasn't at least hoping to have the government provide him or her with social programs at someone else's expense (preferably at the cost of some faceless moneybag).
Republican publicists and Fox-news talk-show hosts can't stop lamenting the undeserved fate of "young Americans," who may be left out in the cold with high deductibles when they enroll for Obamacare on a faulty, insecure website. For weeks they've been weeping oceans of tears over these young dears who voted twice for Bam but who are now suffering, we are told, unfairly. But why shouldn't these young adults suffer for their greed and/or moral arrogance?
And why don't minorities who supported the incumbent in record numbers deserve to pay for their misguided zeal by having to accept higher unemployment rates? These voters were neither gulled nor victimized. They made catastrophic decisions with breath-taking righteousness, and are getting what they brought on themselves.
I'm not suggesting that Republican politicians should run around saying this. But I wish they and their cheerleaders would shut up wailing over Obama's betrayed constituents. I am sick of hearing about how Obama breezed to victory in his two presidential races because he lied to us. The guy never lied when it came to showing his ideological stripes and those who voted for him are getting exactly what they should have expected, a profoundly ideological administration overseen by someone whose ideology has always been an open book.
Unlike those Republican regulars, who are now opportunistically playing up the derailment of Obamacare to win the next election, the president they're attacking stands uncompromisingly for a recognizable set of beliefs. He does not "pander" but continues to serve his ideological base that put him in power and reelected him.
Obama does not reach out to the Religious Right because he opposes its religious and moral vision and makes no bones about his opposition.
||...voters were neither gulled nor victimized. They made catastrophic decisions with breath-taking righteousness, and are getting what they brought on themselves.
For Republicans who yap ceaselessly about reaching out to everyone and his cousin, Obama for them is a mystery, the same way a figure like Ted Cruz on the other side of the spectrum is profoundly odious to the Republican National Committee. Advocates for worldviews are of no use to those who are going with the flow while serving their donor base.
Despite his screw-ups and weird ideas, I respect Obama as someone driven by conviction. As disastrous as I think his presidency has been, he has been loyal to his belief system, which he never sacrifices to pandering. Although I profoundly disagree with his core convictions, I do find this president in ways that I can't quite explain to myself more admirable than a mere political operator.
I've no idea what wannabe centrists like Karl Rove and Chris Christie stand for, beyond looking moderate by identifying themselves with some floating or invented center.
GOP politicians and journalists who once denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist are now falling all over themselves praising this deceased leader as the greatest moral figure of the last century. Which is the true view of these opportunists?
However much I may deplore his administration, I've never been in doubt about what Obama believes.
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© 2013, by Paul Gottfried and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger professor of Humanities
at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
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