Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama the Conservative

A lot of liberals, myself included, have been frustrated by Obama's apparent determination to be conciliatory towards conservatives, to achieve non-partisan policy solutions that include them, and to refrain from going for their political throat, even when they so clearly and richly deserve it.

I tend to think of this behavior as an error in political calculation. I want to tell Obama that he's wrong about conciliation, that attacking the conservatives would be a much more effective strategy. But it's possible that his behavior is something much deeper than a mere political calculation.

I was thinking about Obama's life story on my bike ride this morning. Obama's mother was someone who embraced liberal values and the spirit of the Sixties, embraced them to the extent of marrying a black man at a time when that was almost unthinkable for a white woman. In a sense, her liberalism brought Obama into existence. But in that quintessential Sixties determination to realize her personal potential and avoid being trapped by the responsibilities of straight life, she subsequently abandoned her son to free herself for further explorations and adventures.

When that happened, Obama was taken up, loved, protected, and raised, by his conservative grandparents. They were people who did accept responsibilities, and accepted the limitation on their freedom and adventures which responsibility always brings. Obama owed his survival to their conservatism as much as he owed his existence to his mother's liberalism. In Obama's life, he needed them both. So while we of the left may feel that Obama is clearly one of us, he may not feel the same way. Obama's past may have taught him that liberalism has a dark side, and that conservatism has virtues, and that we need both sides of our national character.

If I'm right, then I feel better about Obama as a person. It means that he's not making a stupid political mistake, but pursuing a deeper vision that is fundamentally true. But my theory makes me feel worse about America's prospects. Because right now the kind of conservative that the Republican Party really needs is the kind that will grab them by the scruff of the neck and whup them upside the head until they agree to knock this lying crap off.