This explains the steady even if bloody push to pass the PPACA. It explains the seeming disinterest in meaningful shifts in policy in other areas. It explains why Obama was for the stimulus when it seemed popular and conceded to austerity when it seemed popular.
This is a classic Fabian approach. Avoid engaging the enemy when time is on your side. This also seems like an accurate description of the progressive movements position. While at the moment Progressivism may lose a head-on confrontation, time is indeed on its side. Its opposition is older and grounded in institutions which are losing power. The intellectual base of the right is eroding. Political opinion is solidifying around the notion that there will be some form of universal health care.
Apparently, the Fabian idea is that underlying social forces will bring your ideas about, in the long run. Well, you know what Keynes had to say about that. I think Karl is wrong on several counts. First off, the right does not, and has never had an intellectual base of any great validity. Second, the right does not need an intellectual base, since conservatism is, and has always been essentially anti-intellectual. Their mental processes are based on -
- Magical Thinking
- Negation of Reality (false choice, false equivalence, cherry picking, denialism, etc.)
(It's one of the great mysteries of human nature that all of this is orthogonal to intelligence.)
Third, the mere fact that most old fogies are conservative by nature and will not live forever does not mean that the old fogies of the future will be generally more progressive. That is wishful (magical?) thinking, at best.
Most fundamentally, though, Obama can't be a Fabian Progressive, since he's not any kind of Progressive.
Obama is a pragmatist, rather like Clinton, in the sense that he does not act according to a set of principles, but rather along the lines of whatever he thinks he can accomplish. But – since a set of principles is lacking – the result is incoherent. Thus, one can conclude that Obama holds fast to ACA because that is his firm desire. OTOH, my read is that “Obama care” (which is warmed over Romney-care) is pretty popular among the unwashed masses – including small business owners, so that is where he can gain some success, despite the efforts of neanderthal Rethugs at the state level who still will do anything and everything imaginable to make him fail.
Obama’s apparent willingness to give on other issues is not because he is making a trade-off. It is because he is not a progressive, and has no ideological stake in those issues. Most progressives think Obama compromises with himself before he goes out to compromise with the Rethugs. I think he compromises based on his actual positions, which are right of center. So the result is far right of center.
I look forward to his big talk tonight with dread and anxiety.