Means to an End

About a month ago, Mark Schmitt wrote a great article arguing that Obama’s unity rhetoric and enthusiasm for bipartisanship are a tactic for the implementation of policy goals. This was pretty obviously true to me; a major reason I’m working so hard to get Obama elected is that he’s the most progressive candidate, but he looks like the most moderate to the general public. But the blogosphere was skeptical. After the debate last night, and Obama’s subsequent speech in South Carolina, they shouldn’t be. Here’s Obama at the debate:

I spent a lifetime fighting a lifetime against Ronald Reagan’s policies. But what I did say is that we have to be thinking in the same transformative way about our Democratic agenda. We’ve got to appeal to Independents and Republicans in order to build a working majority to move an agenda forward.

He couldn’t have been clearer if he’d just stated, “Mark Schmitt knows what I mean,” and left it there. He doesn’t want bipartisanship for its own sake, and he doesn’t work with Republicans because he thinks they have good ideas. He crosses party lines to get a progressive agenda passed.

And check out his economically-focused speech in South Carolina. It’s policy-specific, and explicitly progressive, to an extent to which Obama’s never gone before:

Well George Bush’s economic plans haven’t worked before and they’re not going to start working now. More importantly, they don’t reflect who we are as Americans. We haven’t come this far because we practice survival of the fittest. America is America because we strive for survival of the nation – a nation where no one is left behind and everyone has a chance to achieve their dreams. That’s who we are. And that’s who we can be again at this defining moment.
This isn’t an issue I found along the campaign trail. I introduced legislation to stop mortgage fraud and predatory lending almost two years ago. I called for a middle-class tax cut back in September that would put money into the pockets of over 90% of working Americans; that would eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000; that would give a tax credit to struggling homeowners. And that’s why when I announced my economic stimulus package the other week, I called for immediate tax relief for working families and seniors – because they shouldn’t have to wait another day for Washington to act. They need our help right now.
We should send each working family a $500 tax cut and each senior a $250 supplement to their Social Security check. And if the economy continues to decline in the coming weeks, we should do it again. This is the quickest way to help people pay their bills and get them to start spending.

He’s figured out a way to be as eloquent and inspiring as he always is while satisfying the “where’s the beef” concern that’s in the back of the minds of many voters. If he can keep this up, February 5th will be a happy, happy day.

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