Ron Radosh

Election Musings

It now seems likely that Barack Obama will be our President when the returns are finally in. Even Karl Rove, who for weeks gave his viewers on Fox News various scenarios as to how McCain could pull it out, has said that Obama will end up with 338 electoral votes, “the largest electoral margin since 1996.”  There are various reasons for the failure of the McCain campaign, and conservatives and Republicans will be criticizing each other for weeks about what they might have done differently. One thing stands out. The Obama campaign pushed relentlessly for early voting, worrying its supporters that they should not put off voting until Election Day. Hundreds waited hours to vote in centers with few voting machines. In comparison, the McCain campaign had a weak ground operation, and used the old strategy of waiting until a day before Nov.4th to institute a “get out the vote” effort.

The big question, and a strange one to be asking at this late date, is exactly what Barack Obama will do. Go to partisans on either side, and you will get different answers. No one, it seems, can agree on who exactly Barack Obama is and what he believes.  At National Review Online, both Stanley Kurtz and Claudia Rossett and Andrew McCarthy argue that Barack Obama is and always was a traditional left-wing radical. They point to his long standing Chicago associates such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, the democratic socialist New Party in Chicago, and ACORN.

My own feeling is that Obama was clearly part of that left-wing group and culture in Chicago. But he had a more compelling reason to move in such a circle: he aspired to be a major political figure.  There was simply no way to begin his climb to the top without joining and using the networks created by the powerful Chicago left-wing.  It is hard to believe, but not inconceivable, that at one time, the racist rants of Reverend Wright would seem perfectly normal and acceptable to Obama and his circle.  But even if it didn’t, it was Obama’s base for electoral triumph.  He used it and moved on.  But no one is sure. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D.-NY) caused a sensation yesterday when he tried to assure Jewish voters in Florida that Obama couldn’t have believed in what Wright was saying, must have been horrified, but lacked the political courage to leave Wright’s church. 

It is also remarkable to see how differently Obama opponents and supporters describe Rashid Khalidi’s politics.  Rossett and McCarthy show the connections which exist between Ayers and Khalidi and their children, and of course, Barack Obama. They reveal how Khalidi was born into privilege in New York City, and is far removed from the plight of the Palestinians for whom he supposedly speaks. If you turn to Christopher Hitchens, who has recently moved from a hawk’s hawk and defender of George W. Bush, to fierce opponent of McCain and Palin and  Obama supporter, one finds a completely opposite view of Khalidi. According to Hitchens, Khalidi is “the most courageously ‘moderate’ of the Palestinian Arabs” who has been unfairly painted as a “brownshirt and a fascist.” I guess one could call him a moderate, if by moderate you mean- as Khalidi did- that a two-state solution was a “utopian vision” and that Israel was a state “that exists today at the expense of the Palestinians” and whose very existence “fails to meet the most important requirement: justice.”

All of the above leaves the big question unresolved. How will Obama govern? Will he listen to moderate centrist Democrats like William Galston  who advises him to go slow, not overreach, and not emulate FDR with implementation of a series of massive new governmental programs in the first 100 days; or will he go with those who are advising him to strike boldly and with a possibly filibuster proof Senate,  begin his Administration with the immediate launching of ambitious and expensive government programs? Will he, as Fred Barnes argues, immediately decide to govern from the Left?

Whatever happens, I agree with Roger Kimball and others on this site who have commented that while the outcome may not be what we like, as citizens of this country we have a responsibility to help the new President do what he can to govern wisely, and not undertake measures that out of spite and anger help to tear down the country. Let us responsibly work to let Barack Obama know that he is President of all the American people, and not just that far Left he once used on his path to national leadership.