Monday, January 07, 2008

What to (and not to) Expect from an Obama White House
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A President Barack Obama will be the most scrutinized president since Abraham Lincoln. Ironically, the reason for this has less to do with race, though that will loom large in the lens of many, as it has to do with him. He’s lifted public passions and expectations to the clouds with his soaring rhetoric about hope and change; the man who can repair the shambles of Bush’s domestic and foreign policies.
That’s quite a cross for a Senator halfway through his first term, with a wafer thin voting record, little experience with foreign policy matters, and whose still fuzzy, or to put it more charitably, with a still work-in-progress program on affordable health care, education, criminal justice system reform, tax policy, and the housing crisis. A man who needs to pound consistency into his pronouncements that at times seem at odds with the other pronouncements he’s made on winding down the Iraq war and the terrorism fight.

The jury is still way out on just how many of those inflated expectations that he can fulfill. But there are glaring clues as to how much change he can or will even try to make. One is his record in the Illinois state legislature. At first glance, his votes and views during his days in the Illinois Senate on taxes, abortion, civil liberties, civil rights, law enforcement and on capital punishment give much comfort to those who crave for him to make the change he hints at. His stance on tax hikes marked him with some business and taxpayer interest groups as another tax and spend Democrat, and his views on social issues, marked him as an unabashed liberal.

He’s anything but that, and that’s another clue as to what to expect from an Obama White House. He’s a centrist Democrat who is fast replacing the Clinton’s with the Democratic Party’s shot callers as the consummate party insider; their new go to guy. Corporate donors, Hollywood moguls, and through the back door with him, fat cat lobbyists with the quiet nod of Democratic Party insiders have dumped millions into his campaign. They don’t shower money, favors, and promotional praise on a candidate unless they are comfortable that the candidate will not stray to far off the beaten political path and abandon the moderate, respectable approach to policy making.
In the White House, Obama will move cautiously and do everything he can to ensure that the tag “liberal” won’t be slapped on him. The majority of Congressional Democrats and Republicans are centrist to conservative to even ultra-conservative. They would instantly draw their line in the sand against him if he makes a quick push for big tax hikes for education and health care to a push for a quick withdrawal from Iraq which Obama does not favor.

He will do everything he can to escape the fate that befell Bill Clinton the instant he touched a toe in the White House. Republicans waged a gutter wallowing personal and political stealth, and at times, open war against him and his policies, and Clinton made no pretense of being a liberal Democrat. Their attack arsenal included everything from personal slander to stonewalling his judicial appointments and his stab at health care reform. That forced Clinton to tip toe even further to the right on the death penalty, beefing up police power, gay rights, welfare reform, and reining in bloated military spending, while assuring that the Democratic Party would not pander to minorities and the poor.

Obama’s pro choice and abortion rights defense in the Illinois legislature earned him a perfect rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council. And he was a major backer of legislation limiting police interrogations and requiring police to keep racial stats on unwarranted traffic stops, and he supported strict gun control. These are three hyper sensitive issues for conservatives. If Obama puts White House muscle into big reform fights on these issues, he will draw instant fire from right to life groups nationally, police unions, and the NRA.

It’s not likely he’ll risk that, it’s not his style anyway. He got high marks from Illinois Senate Republicans precisely for his willingness to horse trade, deal make, and compromise on the touchiest of issues for conservatives. They praised him as a flexible politician and consensus builder who listened to the views of his Republican opponents.

American politics demands that, especially of moderate Democrats. With Obama, corporations and lobbyists will be even more hawk like in guarding the legislative door to protect their interests, conservatives will tighter their perennial gate keeping against any effort to push abortion rights, and the defense industry will be even more vigilant against any effort at deep military slashes.

Any president that bucks these dominant special interests risks being branded anti-police, anti-business, pro abortion, pro labor, pro-gun control, and a dreaded tax and spend liberal Democrat. That fear more often than not translates into even the best intentioned president caving in when the battle is on for crucial political and social reforms. That will include even one who has made hope and change his ticket to the White House.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February, 2007).


Anonymous said...

"Any president that bucks these dominant special interests risks being branded anti-police, anti-business, pro abortion, pro labor, pro-gun control, and a dreaded tax and spend liberal Democrat. That fear more often than not translates into even the best intentioned president caving in when the battle is on for crucial political and social reforms. That will include even one who has made hope and change his ticket to the White House."
The above quote from YOU, Republican Hutch, is SCRUTINIZING The Democratic Front Runner FAR MORE than the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are doing.
POSITIVE CITIZENS are riding in a Historic moment that truly needs the PASSIONS and EXPECTATIONS of our Demoncratic FRONT RUNNER.
Hutch, with your demeaning remarks about OUR CHAMPION, I'm sorry to say, that you, too, Hutch, will reap the hopes, dreams, glory, liberty, prosperity and joy of OUR Democratic FRONT RUNNER's success.

Anonymous said...

Earl, aboriton is a sensitive issue for all people that believe in equality, and as you point out Barack Obama is a staunch opponent of equal rights because he supports legal abortion. We should not support a candidate that believes a horrible human rights abuse like abortion should be legal.

Anonymous said...

Many of us are very wiling to "bet the house" on Barack Obama, our future president. I can't wait until he captures the White house and accomplishes all of the things he has promised. How do you want your crow cooked?!!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but for me, "the jury is still out." I still don't know whether this country will elect a black man over a white man for president. I don't care what experience or non-experience Obama has; this is a very scary thing for many white folks. In some instances and this may sound like a "conspiracy theory" I think perhaps, some Republicans are hoping/praying Obama will win the Democrat node because they know they can easily rip him to pieces. PLEASE NOTE: A lot of those Republicans that switched and voted for Obama in Iowa are not just doing it because they like him so much. These people "know the game."

Now, will I vote for Obama, yes; but many blacks wouldn't support him because of this. They feel like their vote will be wasted.

Mr. Joshua said...

Dr. Hutchinson,

The main stream White Right Conservative media likes to hear this “good Nigga” rhetoric that you continue to produce! The time has come to call a spade a spade, a Nazi a Nazi and corrupt government, a corrupt government! If you are any kind of political annalist then you should have recognized that Bush was not duly elected the first time or the second time! All of this political strategy is just a smoke screen! Especially for Black Americans!
We must not vote in their Fascist TV production system or all we will get is “Politics as Usual” over and over again! We have to get some real Negroes into office that will stand up for their people and start kicking some Ass! Not like these “We Can’t Get Off The Plantation Niggas.” This is our country!!! This government, law enforcement and the judicial system is supposed to be working for us!

You should be telling our people not to vote in this corrupt system at all and to vote in my system, the Visual Voting System, and to stop paying your taxes to the politicians that are helping illegal aliens to come over here and kill us at random!!!

We need to support Negroes that will not bend over like Bernard Parks! Our people need to see and hear a man in office like me!!!

Black Americans need to give full support for my law enforcement agency and elect judges that will bring these criminals before an all Black American jury for judgment! This is the only way! They are killing us off!!!

In 2008 we have to stand up and claim our 1st Class citizenship rights or go to war to secure it!!!

Mr. Joshua

Anonymous said...


Many of the Republican candidates talk of Obama being a threat to Republicans as a viable candidate, almost as if they are promoting him for the Democrats. Do you think they (the Republicans) are doing this because they know the only way they can possibly win in NOV. is if Obama gets the nomination. As a African American male in the south, as guilty as it may make me feel, it is hard to even imagine a Black man being the leader of the free world which has been controlled by WASP for the last 500 years.

Anonymous said...

"CONTROLLED by WASP" is a mental brain washed state of mind. Bringing along with it, low self esteem, self hate, no pride and not ready for a CHANGE. Obama is instilling in the American system justice, togetherness, peace, truth, progress and promoting a CHANGE of freeing us from NEGATIVE thought processes. He wants to stimulate behavioral habits to mobilize us in the right and prosperous directions. Obama would be an African American President who is for EVERY and ALL Americans!

Anonymous said...

Despite Obama’s "wafer thin voting record", and his "little experience with foreign policy matters", he's seen as a "centrist Democrat who is fast replacing the Clintons with the Democratic Party’s shot callers as the consummate party insider," and he's the usual, whitebread, sheltered, suburban politician. He campaigned in front of Iowa farmers, early on, by asking, "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?"

Whole Foods Markets is the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, with stores throughout North America and the United Kingdom, but there is no Whole Foods store in Iowa. Arugula, possibly one of Obama's favorites, is a bitterish, aromatic salad green with a peppery mustard flavor. Though it has long been extremely popular with Italians, American palates often find its flavor too assertive. Arugula (which resembles radish leaves) can be found in specialty produce markets and in some supermarkets. It's sold in small bunches with roots attached.

Whole-Foods-Arugula Obama might be good at helping a fleshy Jewish Whitehouse intern pick out the perfect dress at a Gap store in a shopping mall somewhere, but I doubt he'll ever make much of a president.

Anonymous said...

Too bad, your wafer thin experience has been with you for your Whole-Fool's Lifetime!

Anonymous said...

Earl, Great article and mostly true. But, the difference is that Bill Clinton did have the American People “supporting” him. Yes, the people elected him but didn’t speak out for change. Bill Clinton was really a status quote president.

Obama will have the American people from “all” cultures supporting him. Bill Clinton shamed the White House with his unethical infidelity scandal from which he lost respect of the American people. Obama will bring character, Charisma, judgment, prudence, and effective change-management strategies with all parties in the White House.