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Questioning the promise of change

In the wake of the historic 2008 election, a conservative blogger asks: To what degree is President-elect Obama's victory a mandate for the changes he will attempt to make?
President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama. Obama-Biden Campaign


That, as they say, is that. President-elect Barack Obama is correct in saying that "defining moment of change has come to America."

As the first African-American president, he will always hold a significant place in national history, but his effectiveness in delivering on the promise of change must be measured both in terms of quantity and direction as he assumes the roles of chief executive and commander-in-chief.

Change is not hard-wired to deliver in only a positive direction. Neither is it true that change that causes positive effects for one person or family will not have a negative effect on others. Nor is it like a domesticated pet that can be leashed; unintended consequences are the bane of every change-artist politico.

Despite all of the realities and wild cards — known only in hindsight — change sounds good. Even when we do not have the benefit of seeing it in legislative form, but only hear the happy populist rhetoric that scintillates crowds on the campaign trail, change makes us feel like good times are just around the bend. The grass is always greener. Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah.

The question that faces us is to what degree Obama's victory is also a mandate for the changes he will attempt to make, in terms of judicial appointments and cabinet postings, as well as his policy agenda. There are many reasons to suspect that the Democratic wave that swept the country yesterday was a public relations success, not an ideological one, because the ideology has yet to manifest itself in a clear legislative policymaking agenda.

Based on campaign promises, people voting for Obama might have done so simply because they believed he would lower their taxes. To them, he might represent the values of conservativism in a package that was more appealing than that grumpy ol' John McCain. If not for the fine print that will become the essence of how Obama delivers on his other promises without bankrupting the country, those voters might get what they are expecting. With that in mind, it might not be smart for Obama to rapidly conclude that the results of this election represent a mandate for the liberal objectives that were challenged by McCain, as well as members of the media, without much in the way of substantive response from Obama.

It is probably unrealistic to expect Democratic politicians — now in cloistered conclave, contemplating what can be accomplished whilst we have one-party rule — to question whether a juggernaut liberal agenda for the first session of 2009 is not the will of the people. No one wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, but ignoring the possibility that the electorate might not have been voicing a mandate, despite the results of the election, could have the effects both of ensuring a pendulum swing back in 2010 to a Republican-dominated Congress and the exacerbation of the country's current economic predicament.

Based on our two-year history with the party leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the Democrats will gulp greedily from the chalice handed them without too much concern for why it was given to them in the first place. After all, it would be somewhat rational — although short-sighted — to conclude that yesterday's results were a clear message of animosity toward Republican candidates and the values underpinning their party.

In the presidential race, while several states switched from red to blue, not one flipped in the other direction. The same trend is shaping up in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races, although the Minnesota race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken will have to be decided after at least one recount. (Minnesota GOP attorneys should connect with the Washington State GOP for a briefing on lessons learned from having close statewide races slip through their hands. Reference: Gorton/Cantwell, 2000, Rossi/Gregoire, 2004.)


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 7, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

I think the main reason people voted for Obama is the desire for change with respect to our military. Change the role of AIPAC which constantly encourages all of our elected representatives to engage in conflict in the middle east, change the neocon ambition of Dick Cheney, and relegate Donald Rumsfeld to nothing more than a bad memory.

Unfortunately, if Obama's first move is any indication, he may change very little. Indeed, he may increase use of our military against people who represent zero threat to the United States.

Obama's first move thus far was the selection of Rahm Emmanuel to Chief of Staff, the second most powerful job in Washington. It may turn out to be a brilliant strategy, a "white elephant" gift to AIPAC that legendary Asian leaders have used over the centuries. But if Rahm Emmanuel is given any real influence, expect no change where Americans want it most.

From Haaretz:
"Emanuel, a former Bill Clinton adviser, is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948."

The chief of staff effectively controls the people around the president -- he decides who sees him, what he hears, and what he knows. The people surrounding the president report to the chief of staff. Emanuel will be the intellectual handler of President Obama (a continuation of the role he has played for years) and the controller of the White House.

Emanuel's father said Rahm is "the namesake of Rahamim, a Lehi combatant." Lehi, a.k.a. the Stern Gang, was the most radical Zionist terrorist group in the 1940s. The Stern Gang killed scores of British soldiers and assassinated Lord Moyne and Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations envoy from Sweden, as well as hundreds of innocent Palestinians such as the civilian population of Deir Yassin. Both of Emanuel's parents, Benjamin Emanuel (formerly Auerbach) and Marsha Smulevitz, lived in Israel and both are related to Lehi fighters. Lehi fighters, for anyone interested, are described in Wikipedia.

Is this the change we were voting for?

GV_Ranch

Posted Fri, Nov 7, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Most people vote for the candidate, not the policies per se. It's obvious to everyone in the world except the far right wing that 8 years of narrow-minded, divisive, incompetent, irresponsible, and deceptive leadership has taken a huge toll on our economy and our reputation. In voting for Obama, the nation expressed its longing for a leader who is rational, intelligent, articulate, cool-headed, trustworthy, and optimistic.

Sean

Posted Fri, Nov 7, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

"Emanuel's father said Rahm is "the namesake of Rahamim..."

Are you really concerned that Obama is going to suddenly push a radical anti-Palestinian agenda because his chief of staff's dad once belonged to an Israeli militia in 1948?

Like most presidents, Obama isn't the kind of idiot that is going to be manipulated by his advisers. (Cheney's manipulation of Bush is an historical anomaly, not the norm.) Obama made it clear he wants a staff with diverse perspectives that will challenge his thinking. This may not sit well with the lefties in this country, but it should be well-received by pragmatists and realists.

Sean

Posted Fri, Nov 7, 3:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Amen to much of what you say, Bryan, but characterizing the passage of I-1000 as a blow against the "value of life"? I would be surprised to find that a single supporter fails to value life: on the contrary, I-1000 was all about valuing the individual's choice to live their life as they wish, and not to suffer needlessly. When we speak of valuing life, we must not forget about the quality of life — as determined by the patient in question.

Also, characterizing it as "doctor-prescribed suicide" makes it sound like physicians will now be going around proposing overdoses as an alternate therapy. This is certainly not the case. Even "physician-assisted suicide" isn't wholly accurate as one must be able to take the lethal dose on one's own.

Lastyly, saying I-1000 has been criticized for its failure to provide common-sense safeguards without specifying by whom or for what would get your sentence kicked out of Wikipedia in a hurry. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Avoid_weasel_words)

I suggest a read of "At the End of Life, a Delicate Calculus" in the New York Times' The New Old Age blog (http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/at-the-end-of-life-a-delicate-calculus/), which not only outlines the safeguards, but is one of the few pieces I've seen that addresses the issue of covert physician-assisted death. This happens far, far more than people think. Rejection of I-1000 wouldn't have stopped it.

According to data from Oregon, 341 people have died in 11 years as a result of lethal doses of medication provided by a physician. That amounts to 1 in 1,000 deaths overall per year, according to the state health department, although 1 in 50 dying patients have discussed the possibility with their doctors and one in six with their families. “Most patients will be reassured by the possibility of an escape,” Dr. Quill said, “and will never need to activate that escape.”

By contrast, when physician-assisted death is a covert operation, far more people seem to grab the chance. Data on this secret but apparently widespread practice is hard to collect, because physicians can be charged and prosecuted for a crime. But in the mid-1990s a team of researchers, Dr. Quill among them, tried to investigate the question using techniques that protected anonymity. The researchers found that between 1 and 2 percent of deaths per year had been aided, illegally, by physicians through assisted suicide or euthanasia — 10 to 20 times the rate observed in Oregon since legalization of this practice.

Posted Sat, Nov 8, 6:28 p.m. Inappropriate


Sean wrote :

" ... the nation expressed its longing for a leader ... "

and what historical actions can you offer up to prove that Mr. Obama will be anything like such ?

Posted Tue, Nov 11, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

First, Obama is not an African-American. He has no relatives who were slaves taken from Africa and transported to the U.S.

Secondly, will those calling themselves African-American now drop the African part and just refer to themselves as American as one of their own has attained the highest office in the land? It's doubtful.

I'll wager that soon Obama will be deemed not black enough by the race baiters such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating the race warfare that has made them rich.

And what about the Democratic Party which has benefitted from their perpetuation of race, class, gender, and generational warfare? Their largest and most successful warfare group-African-Americans-cannot really play the race card any longer can it? Oh you can bet they will find ways.

Lainie

Posted Tue, Nov 11, 2:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Benjamin: Have you asked yourself this question? What kind of physician would write a prescription for legal drugs to be used by a human being solely for the purpose of killing themselves?

Then ask yourself this question. If there are some in the medical community willing to be complicit in killing people at the end of their lives, shouldn't we wonder if they also wouldn't be complicit in killing other people?

Of course you have the abortionist's who find no difficulty in killing the unborn, even up to the moment of birth where they stab the child in the skull to kill them so their bodies can be expelled easier. The 20th-21st century bleeding-heart legal murderers who probably sleep better at night than those of us who actually have a conscience.

Ask yourself another question. Who exactly determines the definition of "quality of life"? Individuals? Doctors? Family members? Politicians? Judges? Health Insurance Providers? HMO's? The answer: all of the above. Which means, there will come a time when your "quality of life" definition conflicts with the definition of doctors, family members, politicians, and/or judges and guess whose definition will prevail? Not yours.

Approving the legal killing of human beings is the most barbaric, backwards and lethal form of voting rights that serves to undermine the human person and human dignity.

Human dignity has suffered a blow by the success of those bleeding-heart defenders of evil who will not stop advocating for the destruction of more human life.

Your life is in danger as is the life of all living and not yet born human beings when legal murder of first the unborn and now the terminally ill is considered compassionate and a human right.

Lainie

Posted Wed, Nov 12, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Lainie:

I have to defend my use of the term "African-American", in this case. If your problem with the use of the term is that we should consider ourselves to be Americans first, I agree. Nevertheless, the term African-American is just a hyphenation of cultural backgrounds which, in the case of the president-elect, is just about as accurate as it gets. His father was Kenyan (that is a nation in African) and his mother was American. The literal dissection of the term will inform you that it has nothing to do with having ancestors who were slaves, just as being an Irish-American, German-American, Iranian-American, or any other such variation, has nothing to do with how a person came to be here.

On the other hand, I think your comment to Benjamin Lukoff, after stripping it down, is something we all fear but is a worst case scenario in which the entire system completely breaks down. Ultimately, though, it comes down to a question of individual morality in this case, since it is a choice being entered into by a person to end their life. In that way, it is very different from the procedure of abortion.

I did not anticipate that I-1000 would become the fulcrum for many of the responses to my essay, but I really enjoy the exchange of ideas.

Posted Fri, Nov 14, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Lainie:

Plenty of physicians, today, do just that, when they give patients far more morphine or tranquilizers than they really need to "control pain" or "control breathing" or "control anxiety."

Who determines "quality of life"? The individual should, I think, as long as they are mentally competent.

In addition, I-1000 does not legalize the administration of lethal drugs, only the prescription.

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