On Obama’s Conservatism

Obama was able to do what no president has been able to do since Teddy Roosevelt tried a hundred years ago.

He succeeded because he’s a conservative.

Against what many people claim, Obama is far more institutionally conservative than most progressives.  He works within institutions.  He build relationships.  He is skeptical about broad ideological claims.   He understands the nature of personal power.  It’s in his community organizing background.  It’s also a traditional part of conservative thinking.

He didn’t impose a plan.  The plan came from congress; it was developed in committee.  He appropriated some of the policies from Republicans.  The plan created was politically moderate, imposing modest restrictions upon various parties.  Everyone had to give.  It was written after every stakeholder had its say.

Obama was patient.  He was more patient than the left, who wants everything immediately.  His patience allowed the Republican party, alas, to dissemble.  They could not offer a coherent plan, and the foot soldiers were revealed to also be incoherent, if not also adolescent and racist.  Their claims were often imaginary, the hyperbolic product of resentment and fear.  Obama’s patience – a conservative trait – exposed the opposing side to be uninterested in serious matters of policy.

Obama was also strategic.  Republicans are right to note that the proposal, as is, is probably a bit inaccurate when it comes to future costs.  There will have to be more government involvement to manage the competing claims of the various parties involved.  They are also going to have to confront the fact that plenty of their constituents – registered Republicans – will benefit from broader health care, especially lower-middle class race populists.

I think it is relevant that a black president passed this reform.  This reform will especially impact poor Americans, both black and white.  They will be indebted to this bill.  It is a very practical way, especially, our government can diminish the impact of racism.

Yes, Obama may be more sympathetic to the progressive cause.  But his success is not because he’s a progressive.  His success is because he’s a conservative.  He is not motivated by ideology or political correctness.  He moves once he has built relationships with people who represent institutions.  This will irritate both liberals and race-populists.  But it is why he is successful.

If more progressives were as conservative as Obama, they’d have a lot more success.

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3 comments on “On Obama’s Conservatism

  1. Laura says:

    Yes. Well said. Now I don’t have to figure out how to say it!

  2. janinsanfran says:

    If progressives were as conservative as Obama, he wouldn’t have the space to exist. We too, out here on the left, have a role to play. Just not the only role.

    • padremambo says:

      That’s true. I think that one of the benefits of Obama’s style of conservatism is that it doesn’t diminish progressive activism. He seems to listen – and sometimes changes. Compare to Bill Clinton or George Bush.

      But to me, Conservative is a temperament as well as a philosophy, even though its rhetoric is hyperbolic and reactive.

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