Ezra Klein: Obama is “a moderate Republican of the early 1990s”

Ezra Klein: Obama is “a moderate Republican of the early 1990s”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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Ezra Klein has an interesting (and well structured) piece about all the things that President Obama isn’t (Muslim, socialist, birthless), and the one thing he is — a Republican. Mr. Klein (my emphasis throughout):

A reality-television star who can’t persuade anyone that his hair is real is alleging that the president of the United States was born in Kenya.

Perhaps this is just the logical endpoint of two years spent arguing over what Barack Obama is — or isn’t. Muslim. Socialist. Marxist. Anti-colonialist. Racial healer. We’ve obsessed over every answer except the right one: President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s. And the Republican Party he’s facing has abandoned many of its best ideas in its effort to oppose him.

Klein rests his case on three initiatives:

If you put aside the emergency measures required by the financial crisis, three major policy ideas have dominated American politics in recent years: a plan that uses an individual mandate and tax subsidies to achieve near-universal health care; a cap-and-trade plan that attempts to raise the prices of environmental pollutants to better account for their costs; and bringing tax rates up from their Bush-era lows as part of a bid to reduce the deficit. In each case, the position that Obama and the Democrats have staked out is the very position that moderate Republicans have staked out before.

The piece then details each of those three policy ideas, and closes by defending the sentence I italicized in his main paragraph above. A classic Writing 101 three-example essay with coda, and professionally done. High marks.

Just three quick points (a sort of codetta of my own): First, the “Obama is a Republican” meme is getting mainstreamed. Great news. Time to call it right, in the same way that Krugman is starting to call it right — out loud.

Second, Klein seems to be bending over to praise Republicans; either that, or he’s an admirer himself, and sincerely so. We need to acknowledge that about Klein. (In that sense, this is a “state of the Klein” piece as much as a “state of the Obama” article.)

But either way, that italicized sentence is seriously quibblable. Is the privatized health insurance mandate really such a great idea? (Notice that Klein equates “good idea” with “successful idea.”) Do we really want to hand over health care to an unregulated industry, independent of how low it reduces percentage of uninsured?

And if I may be so bold, I don’t think it’s a given that radical Republicanism, 2010-style, is just anti-Obamaism, as Klein asserts. Republicans have been moving the goalposts into the next county for most of our lives.

It’s what they do. They’re not going to stop until it’s 1880 again, an era in which those nasty immigrants were, at the very least, appropriately hued. The next Democratic president could be to the left of Chairman Mao, and those Republican goalposts would still be to the right of the Atlantic seaboard.

This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Obama, US, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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