Will Obama's "new kind of politics" involve new policy ideas?

A Washington Post reporter concludes that Barack Obama's platform involves changes in tone and leadership style, but not the kind of policy shifts Bill Clinton brought to the White House.


Justin Jouvenal
May 30, 2008 3:55AM (UTC)

Barack Obama has promised a "new kind of politics" if he is elected president, but a Washington Post survey of his policy proposals finds little that would distinguish him from Democratic Party orthodoxy.

While John McCain has been highlighting some of his differences with the Republican Party, the Post's Perry Bacon, Jr. writes on Thursday that Obama "has not emphasized any signature domestic issue or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction on policy, as Bill Clinton did with his 'New Democrat' proposals in 1992 that emphasized welfare reform or as George W. Bush did with his 'compassionate conservatism' in 2000."

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Bacon says Obama's proposals on healthcare, taxes, and the housing crisis are largely similar to those put forward by Clinton and other congressional Democrats. Obama's also pushed other mainline Democratic proposals, such as a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases and legislation that would give illegal immigrants a road map for becoming citizens.

Heather Higginbottom, an Obama policy director, said the Senator's plan for education breaks new ground for a Democrat. Obama wants to give teachers bonus pay if they receive fresh training or their students score especially high on standardized tests. Some teachers' unions, which are an important constituency for Democrats, oppose the ideas. Higginbottom also said the campaign is focused on practical solutions rather than "ideological points." David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, said the candidate would roll out more policy proposals in the next six months.

Other Democrats say Obama's campaign is transformational.

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"The change that Senator Obama has promised is one of tone and leadership style," William Galston, a former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton, said. "He has not dissented from party orthodoxy in the way Bill Clinton did on the way to the presidency in 1992."


Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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