November 13, 2008

We’re Not Ready To Turn Left

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Barack Obama’s win was undoubtedly a proud moment for all Americans, regardless of where you may fall on the political spectrum. The Democratic wins for control of both the executive and legislative branches are a rebuke of the previous years of Republican control. However, let us remember that Obama elected not only as the “change” candidate, but as the pragmatic candidate.
The beginning of the Obama administration will not yield a New Deal or first 100 days reminiscent of FDR’s. The problems that President-elect Obama will face on his first day will be, at best, only marginally better than they are today. The macro economy is in decline and the financial markets have shown only minimal signs of improvement. Furthermore, just because Obama is lauded overseas does not mean that our enemies will view us any differently than before. Foreign policy will entail a long, gradual process that will not produce immediate results. Barack Obama gained the support of so many independent and formerly Republican voters because he claimed the ability to suspend ideologically driven policies and focus instead on practical policies guided by objective analysis. He must practice what he preached because most U.S. citizens inherently disagree with an ideologically driven, liberal agenda.
In spite of the Democratic wins, this country is not as liberal as many on the extreme left may believe. This nation has a history of conservatism, or at the very least a right-of-center ideology. One need not look further than the success of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California (with similar measures passed in both Arizona and Florida). Some may argue that voters did not fully comprehend the measure, or that organization among supporters was better than that of the opposition. The fact remains, however, that voters passed the measure. While this speaks solely to the religious and cultural conservatism in the U.S., America remains a fundamentally right-of-center nation.
Last week’s election was a rejection of “compassionate conservatism” and the mishandling of the Iraq War (as well as other foreign policy blunders). Republican-led programs such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D and the promotion of homeownership strayed from the ideals of fiscal conservatism and limited government. And still, about 46 percent of the popular vote went to the Republican candidate, an indication that the U.S. is not ready to turn left on most issues.
The Democrats should not mistake their wins as a mandate from U.S. citizens to enact rash, sweeping federal programs. Pragmatism certainly dictates that more regulation is needed in the financial markets and that some government leadership will be necessary for any reform to come about concerning issues such as healthcare and Social Security. Yet, it is undeniable that this country’s politics and ideals rest on the foundations of reforms via the free market (with some government involvement and participation of course). Concerning increased government regulation of the financial markets, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, noted that Democrats are “very mindful of the fact that too much regulation will snuff out the hallmark of our economy, which is entrepreneurship.” For all of the credits Democrats deserve, they should be cognizant of overreaching.
The failed policies of both the Bush presidency and the Republican Congress are undeniable. Yet, when one looks at the history of politics and policy in this country it is evident that, on the whole, policies ultimately based on the principles of a competitive market have been the ones that are enacted and successful. The Democrats won fair and square, but now comes the responsibility of effective and appropriate governing. President-elect Obama, as well as Congressional Democrats, should follow the lead of Democratic–nominee-Obama and govern pragmatically and from the center.