Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tangential Politics

The Common Man has been following the machinations of Governor Rod Blagojevich, Senator Harry Reid, and prospective-Senator Roland Burris over the past few weeks with increasing dismay and wonderment. Reid and Senate Democrats have painted themselves into a corner by flatly announcing they would refuse to seat anyone appointed by the allegedly crooked governor of Illinois. Most legal opinion seems to suggest that Reid and his colleagues have no legal right to block Burris from being seated, and that Blagojevich was entirely within his legal rights to appoint him (ethically, he probably shouldn't, but it doesn't sound as though Gov. Blagojevich has much use for pesky ethics). And now, Democrats will look weak as they are forced to allow Burress into the most exclusive club in the nation.

Don't get The Common Man wrong, bluster and machismo is an important part of being a man, but when that machismo and bluster can't be backed up with action, you're better off accepting and admitting your limitations and taking whatever actions are within your power (such as not allowing Burres to caucus with the Democrats; which, in hindsight, would have been a good solution as they appear constrained but tough, and they still get Burris's votes on a great deal of issues important to Democrats).

Meanwhile, Burris has been touting himself to the press as a legitimate appointee (and, indeed, his resume suggests that he is). But The Common Man's favorite part of this entire brouhaha has been learning that Burris has named both his son (Roland II) and his daughter (Rolanda) after himself (you know by now of The Common Man's hatred of parents who give their children names for dumb reasons). And that he already has purchased a mausoleum and listed his accomplishments on the side (with room for more), on which is inscribed in large letters "Trailblazer" (The Common Man wonders what Clyde Drexler's going to do now). The hubris and narcisism of this guy just seems staggering, regardless of his qualifications.

Anyway, Barack Obama and his transition team have been smart to stay away from this controversy as much as possible. Obama has largely stayed out of the debate surrounding Burres and Blagojevich, and has restricted his comments (and has refrained from spending his political capital) on issues over which he has little control at this point (such as the war raging in the Gaza at the moment). Meanwhile, where his words and desires will have a strong effect (such as on the economic crisis), Obama has been outspoken and often driven the financial markets.

Likewise, Obama has been marshalling forces and support for his first days in office. In choosing former rivals as well as allies, Obama has garnered additional praise and adulation where no one expected it (moderate Republicans, Clinton Democrats, etc.), strengthening his position for the coming days when he will have to make important decisions and will need his allies to fall into line.

And it's in this vein, presumably, that Obama has asked Pastor Rick Warren to provide the invocation. Many Democrats and progressives were disappointed (and/or livid) about Warren's selection, decrying Warren's anti-gay, anti-evolution, and anti-abortion social stances as evidence that the man is a right-wing, Gary Bauer-esque nutjob. And perhaps he is. And perhaps certain wings of the Democratic party have good reason to be upset. Nevertheless, Obama's strategy here is brilliant, for he understands that setting up a government is not the same as governing effectively.

To effectively govern, to wield the power of his office in a way that will be meaningful and helpful, especially in the middle of multiple crises, Obama will need broad support from both parties and from a large and multi-faceted coalition of groups. It will not be enough to issue Presidential edicts and proclamations like George Bush did without gauging and relying on public support. The changes necessitated by the current economic and political situations around the globe require significant flexibility and muscle to implement, and Barack Obama is positioning himself to do just that. Those who want a government for and by the political Left should remember what the last eight years in the political wilderness have been like for them (and see how ineffective this president was without broad support), and ask themselves whether they would like to have a liberal President or an effective President who happens to be liberal.

Now, how exactly did The Common Man end up here?

Note: Some idiotic spellings of names have been since corrected. That's what The Common Man gets for trying to multi-task.


BillP said...

What, did you devote all your spelling capacity to spelling Blago's last name right every time, so there was just no juice left for "Rob" (it's Rod), "Harold" (it's Roland, as you obviously know--hey, at least Rolanda is a name...could be worse, could be Clemette Haskins), "Burress" (Burris, not the guy who shot himself in the leg) and "Burres" (...Argentinian poet Jose Luis Borges?)?

I keed, I keed. Commenting is less destructive than taking a red pen to my monitor.

As far as I can tell, the legalities of the whole situation are kind of up in the air--most people agree Blago is probably within his rights, but nobody's ever had any reason to care enough to work it out. And it's not like whoever gets appointed by the real governor when we have one won't be giving the Democrats votes. I think they're absolutely right to keep him out for as long as they're even remotely plausibly allowed to.

The Common Man said...

Thanks for the head's up. The Common Man was trying to make lunch for a two-year old and write at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Two things. First, to dispose of the "AOL Type" comment. Proof reading is MANdatory. Second, absolutely right on about the need for centrist politic thinking. I have seen far too many on the Left act like totalitarian statists when acquiring modest political power.

The Common Man said...

@ Anonymous

The Common Man, prior to your suggestion, had no idea that proof reading was a good idea. Thank you for your insight.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, "centrist" policies aren't really that interesting to The Common Man. The Common Man self-identifies as a liberal-to-progressive on both fiscal and social issues and hopes the Obama administration is able to implement real changes that build up the middle class and reduce the disparities between rich and poor Americans and establish greater social justice for all Americans. Most "centrists," anyway, are actually people who go against their party on specific issues (like Joe Lieberman on defense, who would still be a beloved member of the Democratic party today if President Bush hadn't invaded Iraq), rather than true middle-of-the-roaders.

What does interest The Common Man, however, and what apparently interests the forthcoming presidential administration as well, is political pragmatism. Obama doesn't lose support (or much support; support he's likely to get back anyway) by brining in Rick Warren, and he could potentially gain quite a bit for his inclusion by appearing more palateable to the Center-Right. And, here's the kicker now, he doesn't have to give up anything in terms of real policy initiatives in order to make it happen.

Anyway, for the past eight years, The Common Man has seen far too many on the Right "act like totalitarian statists when acquiring modest political power," so this isn't a party thing. Rather, The Common Man points out that Barack Obama seems to have a far greater interest in building consensus and support, rather than unilaterally acting, than his immediate predecessor.