drshift

Source: Paul Krugman's NY Times Blog, The Conscience of a Liberal

Look at the dark blue in Indiana. Ditto for the non-Appalachian areas of Kentucky. This is a map of the percent change from Republican to Democrat votes between 2004 and 2008. There are only two, maybe three, plausible reasons for this change. Either people all over the country so were shocked by Bush and Co.’s ineptitude that they voted for an relatively unknown and untested candidate, or they changed their minds about the core truth of conservative political philosophy. Maybe both.

There is a lot of chatter over Obama’s reference to Illinois’s other great president Abraham Lincoln in his acceptance speech. Let’s hope it is a sign. Obama should be very aware that he will have to be a skillful executive and manage not only some federal-sized egos, but also some dearly held ideological convictions that would very much like to tear the country apart on principle.

For those who know me, you know I was all for waging implacable ideological war on “conservatives” during the Bush administration. In my opinion, it was impossible to reason with people who had gone over to the dark side of militarism and drunk the cool-aid of “tax relief”. The only solution was to shout them down, ridicule them, and hope that they might learn from their failures before their failures sunk the rest of us. The latter has hopefully come to pass. But now that reason and pragmatism have returned to power they must take a less strident tone if they hope to accomplish real change.

Well, kind of. Obama must take a conciliatory tone when dealing with conservatives. He must play the fair and balanced Big Daddy who can moderate a middle course through conservative teeth gnashing on one side and liberal witch hunting on the other. But he must not accept conservative ideology the way Clinton did. The spectacular failure of radical conservatism in the United States not only destroyed G. W. Bush’s legacy, it is also threatening to take down Clinton as well. Conservatives tried to pin the financial crisis on Clinton, which, though it sounds absurd on the surface, actually has some merit on the facts. Clinton did indeed loosen regulations on home ownership, and he most certainly gave Alan Greenspan carte blanche to run up a massive asset bubble. But Clinton didn’t do this from his liberal convictions; rather he did it in an attempt to appear as a “Reagan Democrat”. It was irresponsible, and his reputation in history will pay the price.

Obama must give the more radically left Democrats in Congress room to penalize the freemarketeers for their excesses. I suggest billion dollar fines for anyone remotely associated with speculative finance. All executive bonuses given by companies that have taken federal money should be frozen. That money should be given to government programs that build infrastructure or for food stamps. But as president Obama must stand above the fray. And when Republicans like Boehner and McConnell come to him complaining about their unfair treatment he should respond graciously as a moderator.

Our country tracked dangerously to the right during the last quarter of the 20th century. Power and success threatened to undermine the basic principles of the founders: conservatives wanted a military empire, an oligarchy of wealth, and they pursued it with populist Caesarism that would have disgusted conservatives from Swift to Burke to Buckley. Now we have a unique opportunity to let historical forces correct this madness and remind America that its promise is based on equality — not supremacy.

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