The most left-wing president since Nixon?

Why the right wing fears a possible President Obama: His political honeymoon would be so charmed he might actually get things done.


Andrew Leonard
February 19, 2008 9:02PM (UTC)

The Economist wrings its hands, in positively worshipful style, at the economic implications of a possible Barack Obama presidency.

His voting record suggests that, if elected, Mr Obama would be the most economically left-wing American president since ... well, it's hard to say. Richard Nixon? In any case, that the junior senator from Illinois is such a skilled negotiator and conciliator bodes rather ill for those who wish to see less rather than more government involvement in the economy, I conjecture.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, Mr Obama will not inspire venomous, high-spirited obstruction from the Republican congressional minority. On the contrary, an Obama victory will be cast as such a triumphant watershed moment (and quite reasonably so) that we should expect an especially drawn out and sunny honeymoon. Republicans will be anxious to take off the kid gloves, but will be much constrained by the prevailing spirit of celebration and hope, which may leave the charismatic young president seeming untouchable, at least for a time. Add to this Mr Obama's much-touted skill for diplomatically forging consensus, and it seems we could end up with an American economic policy rather further to the left than seemed politically possible even a few month's ago

Given the current uncertainty as to who will ultimately win the Democratic nomination for president, much less the presidency itself, the Economist could be accused of premature gloom at the prospect of the lions lying down with the lambs on Capitol Hill and ushering in a wave of a bipartisan consensus remaking the economy. It's also possible that the Economist underestimates the power of partisan fervor in the United States. Political honeymoons in the 21st century are measured in nanoseconds, which makes it hard to get legislation passed. But the blurb is still striking: The Economist's usual tone of we-know-better-than-you condescension appears to have collapsed into, dare we say, a stance of cultish adoration. How odd is that?

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Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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