President Obama was never going to be a fire-breathing liberal, no matter what quasi-socialists like myself wish. When he was representing Illinois in the Senate, he was a moderate, why should his presidency be any different? Unfortunately, the right wing has been conducting scorched earth policies, and (nearly) everything being accomplished in Washington that is partisan in nature.
Obama’s homily about conciliation reflected an essential component of his temperament and his view of politics. In his mid-twenties, he won the presidency of the Harvard Law Review because he was the only candidate who was trusted by both the conservative and the liberal blocs on the editorial staff. As a state senator in Springfield, when Obama represented Hyde Park-Kenwood, one of the most liberal districts in Illinois, he kept his distance from the most left-wing senators from Chicago and socialized over games of poker and golf with moderate downstate Democrats and Republicans. In 1998, after helping to pass a campaign-finance bill in the Illinois Senate, he boasted in his community paper, the Hyde Park Herald, that “the process was truly bipartisan from the start.”
A few years later, Obama ran for the U.S. Senate and criticized “the pundits and the prognosticators” who like to divide the country into red states and blue states. He made a speech against the invasion of Iraq but alarmed some in the distinctly left-wing audience by pointing out that he was not a pacifist, and that he opposed only “dumb wars.” At the 2004 Democratic Convention, in Boston, Obama delivered a retooled version of the stump speech about ideological comity—“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America!”—and became a national political star.
In 2006, Obama published a mild polemic, “The Audacity of Hope,” which became a blueprint for his 2008 Presidential campaign. He described politics as a system seized by two extremes. “Depending on your tastes, our condition is the natural result of radical conservatism or perverse liberalism,” he wrote. “Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi, big oil or greedy trial lawyers, religious zealots or gay activists, Fox News or the New York Times.” He repeated the theme later, while describing the fights between Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led House, in the nineteen-nineties: “In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage.” Washington, as he saw it, was self-defeatingly partisan. He believed that “any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in.”
If there was a single unifying argument that defined Obamaism from his earliest days in politics to his Presidential campaign, it was the idea of post-partisanship.
(click here to continue reading Barack Obama, Post-Partisan, Meets Washington Gridlock : The New Yorker.)